His Twinkie Defense: It Was A Long Time Ago

This website, called the T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project, is, in Internet terms, an ancient classic. A War and Peace of the Web, if you will. When it was posted in - oh, em, gee - 1995, it caused a minor sensation. And it was started by two Rice students, Todd Stadler and Chris Gouge.

T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. stands for "Tests With Inorganic Noxious Kakes In Extreme Situations." Stadler and Gouge put Twinkies - purchased at the Fiesta on Main - through experiments including a resistivity test ("Twinkies contain almost no current, probably because they are almost totally sugar"), a gravitational response test ("as soon as the Twinkie was released, it began to fall"), a radiation test ("microwaving a Twinkie is a bad idea"), a rapid oxidation test ("Twinkies could be an acceptable substitute for firewood in some situations"), a solubility test ("the Twinkie immediately began to lose its structural integrity"), a maximum density test ("Twinkies sure taste good for something that is 68 percent air"), and a Turing test ("the Twinkie failed").

Just go look at the site - it's funny. It also has some great haikus by Stadler, like this one:

Is the Twinkie smart?
    Is it just ignoring us?
    We may never know.

Hair Balls caught up with Stadler, who now lives in Portland, Oregon, to talk about the impact the T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project has had on his life.

But he was pretty dismissive of the achievement, even as he estimated that the site has gotten millions of hits.

"The idea wasn't terribly unique," he said, noting that Spy magazine had done something similar with Twinkies. "But putting it on the Internet struck a nerve. There wasn't enough competition back in the day to distract people with."

It turns out Stadler no longer has control of the T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project website. When they graduated, Rice was going to shut it down. But funnily enough, Hostess stepped in to, er, host the website. The last time either Stadler or Gouge tinkered with it was in 2000. And yet, it lives on.

After Hair Balls contacted Stadler, he posted on Twitter that he was doing an interview about the project. "Oh my gosh, that was you?" one of his Twitter friends responded. She had seen the site but had no idea she knew its creator.

"People talked about it when there were fewer sites to talk about," says Stadler. "It's a lot of people's first goofy site or whatever."

As for the haikus, Stadler downplays them too. "I'd like to say it was back when the haiku wasn't a little played," he says. "There are certain things on the Internet that get beaten to death, and everyone likes to think they were the last person before they got clichéd. Haikus and the Internet certainly go together."

-- Cathy Matusow


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