Arts & Culture Books Interviews Nonfiction

Interview with Thomas Thwaites, author of The Toaster Project

Thomas Thwaites has an English accent. I have a southern Virginia accent. Although there is absolutely no audio to go along with this, thus making the last two sentences pointless, you should, regardless, visit The Nervous Breakdown to read my interview (“Thomas Thwaites: Deconstructed“) with the young inventor and author of The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch. And may I add that we do indeed have a few things in common, I learned, despite our separation by way of the Atlantic:

  • Thwaites invented a toaster from scratch a few months ago.
  • I invented a baby from scratch 10 months ago.
  • Thwaites has appeared on The Colbert Report.
  • I have watched The Colbert Report.
  • Thwaites’ work appears in the Science Museum in London.
  • I have once visited a museum, in Washington, D.C.

As you can see, the similarities are striking. To further pique your curiosity, here’s an excerpt from the interview:

It was August 24, 2003 and was a normal Sunday afternoon in Phoenix where it was about 100 degrees and I was sweating Crisco (dry heat my Oklahoma backside!). It was the WWE’s annual summertime extravaganza known as Summerslam headlined by an Elimination Chamber match for the paying customers. But behind the scenes a very different kind of main event was going down that scorching day in Arizona. After years of exile, years filled with controversy and near death experiences, that was the day that former WWE Champion and future WWE Hall of Famer Superstar Billy Graham physically returned “home” to rejoin his WWE brethren and to slowly begin to mend fences and establish new relationships within the company he helped build.

Oops, wrong excerpt. That’s from the foreword (or ‘forward’ as it’s called on this blog) from “Superstar” Billy Graham’s (born Eldridge Wayne Coleman) memoir Tangled Ropes. Here’s the real excerpt:

JP: At the start of The Toaster Project (“Deconstruction”), you offer a quote from the ill-fated Douglas Adams character Arthur Dent: “Left to his own devices he couldn’t build a toaster. He could just about make a sandwich and that was it.”

What drew you to this idea of reverse engineering and why a toaster of all things?

TT: Really, it was just one of those oh-that’s-a-fun-idea kind of moments. But certainly I had (and still have) a sort of terminal curiosity to try and understand, at least fractionally, the insane complexity of the world we’re all born into. As for “why a toaster,” well, it just seemed like a good object to start with – representative of a lot about this civilization.

Any particular influences or texts you read that led you down this path? Perhaps, Ted Kaczynski? Only kidding of course.

Ha! Well, I’m a periodically relapsing addict of the Civilization computer game series. Oh, dear. I suppose, also, I developed a bit of frustration with some of the more naïve responses to the crisis of economic and technological development, and environment. The Toaster Project is a way of discussing some of the dilemmas we face as ‘consumers, (aka ‘people’).

Read the rest.