I remember the first time I got my hands on a copy of The Guinness Book of World Records as a kid. Printed on thin sheets of newsprint with black ink that rubbed off on your fingers, these were simpler times when a 750 page book could contain all the known records of the freakshow that is humanity. From the tallest man to the fattest, the tiniest painting to the biggest Ferris wheel , this little tome outlined the limits of human achievement and weirdness.
Nowadays the glossy, full-color printed Guinness Book is only a small sample of the total number of records. There has been an enormous explosion in record-keeping leading to a kind of freakshow bubble. People have come up with all sorts of stupid things to set records in, from the number of tango spins in one minute, to the number of hula hoops spun at a time (107). One man has even made a pseudo religion out of breaking ridiculous world records under the inspiration of his Indian guru Sri Chinmoy.
Mr. Ashrita Furman has spent many thousands of hours of his adult life devoted to breaking records like how many hopscotch games one can play in a 24 hour period (434), how far one can travel with a milk bottle balanced on his head (80.95 miles), and how fast one can duct tape himself to a wall (5 min, 9 seconds). Furman even holds the record for most current world records held at one time (119). Here is a video documenting his world record for rolling an orange with his nose, a feat which took place in the JFK airport: (more…)