Twinkies, Racial Profiling and EaDo

A Web site 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").

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.


T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project

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 Web site. When he and Gouge graduated, Rice was going to shut it down. But funnily enough, Hostess stepped in to, er, host the Web site. 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," said Stadler. "It's a lot of people's first goofy site or whatever." — Cathy Matusow

Whitewash in White Bellaire?

As the Houston Chronicle reported, the city of Bellaire has hired an outside consultant to review whether there's evidence of racial profiling in who the police department pulls over on traffic stops.

The announcement came in the wake, of course, of the police shooting of resident Robert Tolan, gunned down by Bellaire cops in his driveway for no discernible good reason. After the incident, minorities came forward to talk of being singled out by police in the lily-white suburb.

The Chron quoted Tolan's attorney, Geoffrey Berg, as praising the move. "We are gratified," Berg told the Chron. "They've come a long way from absolute and instant denial to recognition that they may have a problem."

He said the same thing to us, but he also added something further: He's pretty much expecting the report to be a ­whitewash.

"I would be very surprised if this were truly an objective study," he told Hair Balls. "But it would be a pleasant surprise."

Berg said, "certainly, it's a PR move...I don't have a whole lot of confidence any of this will turn out to be legitimate. It's a PR move that was done because the ordinary people have let the city of Bellaire know that this situation is intolerable, and that's forced them to act, at least to take a first step."

Berg said he and his colleagues "are moving forward" with plans to sue the city. He also said the Tolan family has yet to hear any apology from the city or the mayor.

"You would think that as the mayor of a city in which a citizen was shot by the police, you would be a lot less worried about covering your ass than whether your citizen was okay," he said. "Not just as a politician, but as a human." — Richard Connelly

EaDo? You're Serious?

We once described the area immediately to the east of the George R. Brown Convention Center as a "silent, godforsaken stretch of no-man's-land" that is neither the Warehouse District, nor the Third Ward, nor the East End.

We employed that bulky definition because by 2000, its 1980s and '90s name — Chinatown — was no longer apt. Area boosters agree, and now the area has a new name and flashy Web site.

Those of you who have been witness to the genius on display in the re-branding of Houston neighborhoods in recent years — NoDo and Midtown come to mind — will doubtless be unsurprised by the district's new name: EaDo.

Get it? It's East of Downtown? It's one of them right fancy names, just like one of them-there NoLitas, SoHos and TriBeCas they got in Noo York.

"I would like to see them inject a little more creativity," says Thomas Escalante, champion of Houston's distinctiveness and owner of Sig's Lagoon record store and gift shop. "Houston needs to create its own identity, not copy the identity of older places. You keep on doing that and you just end up with a copycat community."

Long ago in Old Houston, neighborhoods weren't named by marketing consultants, loft-flippers and other such assorted douchebags. And back then, places had cool, poetic names. The 400 block of deep Milam was a sink of vice and sin called Catfish Reef. Lower Washington Avenue was a swanky district called Vinegar Hill. A good chunk of Fourth Ward, or FoWa for short, was given over to Houston's Red Light District (ReLiDi) and was known as The Reservation, while the toughest corner in Fifth Ward (FiWa) was known as Pearl Harbor. Mid Lane near the not-yet-built Galleria was a Mad Men-like scene of whiskey-fueled poolside soirees that earned it the name Sin Alley. Even the Richmond Strip seems evocative compared to these moronic, truncated, New York-wannabe handles. — John Nova Lomax

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