A WORLD OF RECORDS
Guinness World Records celebrated its 50th anniversary in Midtown on Tuesday. The penthouse at the Le Parker Meridien - the hotel that serves the world's most expensive omelet - was filled with walking superlatives for the occasion.
Arthur Blessitt added to his personal best just by wandering around the room. He has walked the greatest distance documented over a lifetime (34,501 miles). In 1969-70, long before Forrest Gump made it onto the big screen, Mr. Blessitt strolled across America. He said that he was once stopped in New Hampshire for singing while walking; they thought he was crazy.
Crazy? How about running a marathon on Antarctica? Also present was Walter William Galbrecht, the oldest person to complete a marathon on every continent, has run two on its frigid ground.
In other geography-related feats, the world's fastest speaker, Fran Capo (603 words a minute), said she recently held a book signing on Mt. Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet.
Danny Higginbottom, who holds the record for the highest shallow dive, wants to participate in Times Square on New Year's Eve. "I'd love to drop instead of the ball," he said.
A nurse from Pennsylvania, Stephanie Monyak, has bucked the superstition that says whoever catches a bridal bouquet will be the next in her group of friends to marry. She has caught 10 bouquets since 1983, but has yet to walk down the aisle herself. Two other catches await documentation. The best way to catch a bouquet? Stand in the middle, near the front.
She joked to the Knickerbocker: "I'll be an old lady in a wheelchair with a catcher's mitt."
Don Athey of Bridgeport, Ohio, holds the record in golf-ball stacking. He has stacked nine golf balls vertically without the use of adhesives. His next goal is to play 48 holes of golf in 48 states in 48 hours to raise money for charity. He is researching airports near state lines in order to accomplish this feat.
John Bain's claim to Guinness fame was creating the largest rubber-band ball (15 feet, 1 inch). He is now designing furniture made of elastic bands. He told the Knickerbocker that he uses gloves and glasses to protect his hands and eyes while at work.
In the back of the room, John Cassidy, who has made the most balloon sculptures in one hour (529), was very popular with children of all ages.
Even more unusual talents abounded among guests. There was the man who has held the most live rattlesnakes in his mouth and another who catches grapes dropped from skyscrapers.
The world's loudest finger snapper (108 decibels), Robert Hatch, revealed to the Knickerbocker one of the secrets to his success: Raise the hand high and cup the fingers slightly making a round shape that acts like a seashell in amplifying the sound.
FROM MAX TO THE MP3
Richard Sennett is a social scientist who speaks in lucid prose. A professor at New York University as well as the London School of Economics, Mr. Sennett gave the first of three weekly lectures yesterday in "The Culture of the New Capitalism Lecture Series." The dean of the faculty of arts and science, Richard Foley, introduced the program.
Mr. Sennett said that the institutions of organizing work that have dominated American society are eroding. Work based on what sociologist Max Weber called the "bureaucratic pyramid" - with its rigid inequality and fixed tasks - is falling away in certain fields such as financial services, real estate, high technology, and communications.
The newer kind of structure, Mr. Sennett said, runs more like an MP3 player, in which instead of fixed functions, control can be exercised, rearranged, cut, and mixed more quickly.
Among those at a reception for Christian Parenti's new book "The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq" (New Press) were Eyal Press, who writes for the Nation; John Crawford, with whom Mr. Parenti "embedded" and who is now completing his own memoirs to be published by the Penguin; Dave Enders, a journalist who was in Baghdad reporting for Men's Journal and other publications; as well as filmmakers Garrett Scott and Ian Olds, who are working on a movie called "Occupation Dreamland" about Falluja.
ON THE RECORD
A professor at the New School, Robin Blackburn, was at a panel discussion on the New York Times and foreign policy at Judson Memorial Church on Wednesday.
The evening, co-sponsored by Verso Books and Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, featured author Howard Friel, talk-show host Laura Flanders, and Amy Goodman, whose recent book is "The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers and the Media that Love Them" (Hyperion).
The audience laughed when Ms. Goodman, rather than the "Axis of Evil," referred to the "access of evil," where journalists trade truth for access to sources.
At a panel on "Iraq and the Media" presented by the graduate faculty and the Wolfson Center for National Affairs at the New School on Tuesday, William Kristol began by saying that the New School intimidated him.
"At 16," he recalled, "I had the lack of good sense to get into a political argument with Hannah Arendt at a cocktail party at my parents' house on the Upper West Side."
HONOR & COUNTRY
Hilton Kramer, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and Harvey Mansfield were among the eight winners of the 2004 National Humanities Medal, which was awarded by President Bush at a White House ceremony yesterday.
Mr. Kramer is editor and publisher of the New Criterion, a monthly arts journal, and is the art critic for the New York Observer. Mr. Mansfield is a professor of government at Harvard. Ms. Himmelfarb is author of numerous books, most recently, "The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments" (Knopf).