"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 15 December 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.
The Good Book


[skrit skrit scratch scratch]

In love and fishing, they say

it's not the size of your boat -

it's how deep you wiggle your

worm. By now, we all know that's

a load of socialist hooey

designed to make an average

relationship or boat ride last

slightly longer than it should.

The biggest, deepest, widest,

tallest, fastest, and best all

have a special place of

privilege in this world. And

that place is called The

Guinness Book of World Records.


Seems like ever since the stock

market got supersized, our

friends at Guinness have been

doubly busy documenting new

superlatives of animal,

vegetable, and mineral prowess.

It's been 20 years since the

annual publication enjoyed this

kind of popularity and

credibility. And its erstwhile

rival, The Book of Lists, with

its unflinching commitment to

Darwinian excesses like "the

Longest Recorded Genitalia

(Flaccid)," is nowhere to be

seen. Yes, there's been a

spectacular resurgence in record

setting and record keeping, and

we're pleased that the world's

finest brewery has its name in

the thick of it.


[bopbop bop bop]

Elton John knows a thing or two

about surging into the thick of

things and putting his name on

it. Indeed, his lame tribute to

Di has just passed Bing Crosby's

White Christmas as the

best-selling record in the

history of the world. While the

folks at Guinness admit to

"estimating" the previous record

at around 30 million, they've

got plenty of help from

Billboard and SoundScan this

time around. They say "Candle in

the Wind '97" has been rung up

no fewer than 35 million times

in the last three months. The

only thing stranger than this

outrageously successful

transnational grift (a

half-assed repurposing of a

weak, 25-year-old ballad by a

song-writing team that's

allegedly its generation's

finest) is the one it supplanted

(30 million copies of White

Christmas sold to a global

population - most of whom

neither live near snow nor

observe Christmas).


Let us not be distracted,

though, by these niggling

controversies. The fact of the

matter is that our species is

enjoying a sudden and

spontaneous renaissance in

mystic arts like the Marathon

Pancake Toss, Live Goldfish

Swallowing, and Tandem

Parachuting over the South Pole.

Why, barely a week ago, the

redoubtable Kenny G set a new

Guinness World Record for

holding a single note on his

celebrated saxophone for a full

45 minutes. And a team of

British lads are presently

driving an Isuzu Rodeo knockoff

around the planet in an effort

to take advantage of new

Guinness guidelines for its

chosen event. (Shipping time

over water is now off the clock,

and more than one driver is

allowed. Lest you think Guinness

is getting slack, we can assure

you the pancake still has to

make at least one full

revolution per toss - and land

in the pan - in the marathon.)


[motivate, activate, accelerate]

Blame Sir Hugh Beaver. He was

the managing director of

Guinness Brewing back in 1951.

One night at a party during the

icy nadir of the Cold War, Sir

Beaver was asked to resolve a

disagreement among several

solicitous (and, we assume,

slightly tanked) colleagues.

When he retired to the host's

library to consult a literary

authority, he was chagrined to

discover it lacked reference

material in a most disagreeable

way. According to the Guinness

Book itself,


It occurred to Sir Hugh Beaver
that there must be numerous
"friendly arguments" going on
nightly in pubs and inns
throughout the British Isles,
while patrons partook of
Guinness stout. Beaver decided
to produce a book that would
settle these disagreements.


By 1955, the good book was

apparently preventing fisticuffs

and nosebleeds wherever English

was spoken and Guinness was

served. While it's hard to

believe these skirmishes were

more than what another pint of

stout could medicate, the real

genius of Beaver's idea (aside

from making his brewery the

self-appointed arbiter of the

world's most arcane, silly, and

controverted trivia) was

introducing the global

population to its own innate

potential. As it turns out, The

Guinness Book of World Records

is a small premium to pay indeed

for a policy that insures anyone

with enough energy, imagination,

and/or spare time can be as

famous as that fellow with five

packs of cigarettes jammed into

his mouth.


[blow your mind - or make it up]

Most important, though, The

Guinness Book of World Records

also happens to be the

best-selling book in the history

of the world other than the

Bible or the Koran. While it

seems a peculiar case of

circular logic that The Guinness

Book of World Records is where

we've verified this spectacular

- nay, religious - feat, we're

certain it's nothing we can't

agree on, if you'd be so kind as

to order another round.


That's a good lad, and make it a

stout. Now we're the happiest

man in recorded history.

courtesy of E. L. Skinner