Proof That Evolution Works

Ashrita Furman and his 322 lb shoes
Ashrita Furman and his 322 lb shoes
Ever since the first uni-cellular organisms decided to up the ante by going all multi-cellular on their homies, evolution has looked for ways to make things bigger, faster, stronger, smarter or whatever else is needed to ensure survival. It took a while but, eventually, mankind via Charles Darwin finally figured it all out. With that out of the way humans began pushing themselves to heretofore unknown heights to show what they were capable of.

Yes, I know I finished a sentence with a preposition, just live with it. You have bigger things to worry about.

In keeping with the grand tradition of the best humanity has to offer, in 1954 the Guinness Beer company compiled a list of world records to settle bar bets. They had no idea what version of Pandora’s Box they’d opened. By 2004 the book had become the best selling copyrighted tome in history with over 100,000,000 copies in print. That’s a lot of bar bets.

It also lead to a lot of people, probably inspired by beer as well, to read of these accomplishments and say “Hey! I bet I could do that!” In fact so many people said it that the Guinness people were forced to set aside a day to record all of the attempts. Michael Inbar of MSNBC tried to keep track of the planet spanning event as best he could.

(A)mong the people seeking to enter Guinness’ hallowed pages were TODAY’s own Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, who put on their best game faces Thursday in an attempt to break a who-knew-it-existed record: the most M&Ms candies eaten with chopsticks in one minute.

Competing live on air, the co-anchors showed they were up to the challenge; Hoda in particular proved adept by employing a scoop rather than pinch method of hoisting the M&Ms to her mouth. Alas, they fell short; while Kotb downed 19 candies and Gifford 14, neither came close to the world record of 43 eaten in a minute.

A slightly more serious challenge was undertaken by James Roumeliotis, who appeared on TODAY hoping to break the world record for most jumps on a pogo stick in one minute. Roumeliotis, a staunch competitor who once spent 20 hours on a pogo stick trying to gain entry into Guinness immortality, pogoed feverishly and seemed to be within jumping distance of the record for 238 bounces in a minute. But Claxton told Kotb and Gifford he would have to review a tape of Roumeliotis’s attempt before he could make a decision (the results are still pending).

For many, it’s the offbeat that draws them to Guinness’ pages. While its myriad entries include such standard fare as most home runs hit in professional baseball (Sadaharu Oh, 868) and longest distance run in one hour (Arturo Barrios, 13.1 miles), what really grabs the attention are such quirky records as the man with the hairiest face in the world, or the person with the most toes on one foot.

Guinness knows those oddities heighten interest, and on Worlds Records Day, trotted out the World’s Tallest Married Couple at its Guinness World Records Museum in Hollywood. Stockton, Cal., couple Wayne and Laurie Halliquist posed for the cameras: all 13 feet, 4 inches of them.

Then there’s the above-mentioned Furman. The Queens, N.Y., man may hold the most prestigious record of them all: most records in the Guinness book. The 56-year-old has set 312 records, 120 which still stand, and become a favorite of the Guinness folks, who flew him to England to show off his attempt to walk the 11 yards in heavy, heavy shoes.

And the feeling is mutual: Furman’s love affair with Guinness World Records began at age 10, and drives him to continue adding to his record number of titles. “I remember carrying it around and reading it under the covers at night,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

From jumping rope to hopping on pogo sticks, walking in heavy shoes to dressing up dogs, some 300,000 people around the world are expected to attempt record-breaking stunts on the sixth annual Guinness World Records Day.

While Furman said he learned early on he didn’t possess the physical prowess that would make him a world-class competitor in the conventional manner, finding new Guinness records to break has become a lifelong passion. Alistair Richards, managing director of Guinness World Records, said the publishers hold Furman, who has done everything from somersaulting continuously for 12 miles to clapping 50 hours straight, in the highest regard.

“He’s living and breathing what Guinness is all about,” Richards told the Wall Street Journal. “He lives by a philosophy that nothing is impossible.”

Good to see that Kathy Lee Gifford has been keeping herself busy. I know you were worried.

Left out of the article was the fact that France tried to set the record for the most ugly people doing the Can Can. It wasn’t until after viewing the video that I realized they must have opened a WalMart in Paris. It’s the only explanation.

Nevertheless, it’s heartening to note that all the struggles of our ancestors have lead us to such prodigious heights. With such a stunning display of man’s abilities I may have been wrong yesterday to worry about our impending slavery at the hands of our Robot Overlords.

Then again, maybe not.

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