One Red Paperclip: Or How an Ordinary Man Achieved His Dream with the Help of A Simple Office Supply

Design by Kyle Kolker

You might have heard this story: Man trades paperclip for house. More here.

We all should have seen this one coming. And I know from comments left on previous posts that there are some of you out there who question the marketing wisdom of covers with no titles, but I saw three people pick this up from the new paperbacks table, read the spine and then the back cover, and one of them bought it justlikethat.

There’s just no comparing a cover like this with all the other ideas that were probably pitched for this; you’ve got to think that someone, somewhere, still thinks that a photo of the house the guy eventually acquired with title type that looks like twisted red paperclips was the way to go. Thankfully, the person with that idea lost.

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One Red Paperclip: Or How an Ordinary Man Achieved His Dream with the Help of A Simple Office Supply


These pictures by illustrator Ashley Wood seem to be a cross between drawing and knife fighting.

Wood is one of those artists whose drawings benefit from controlled accidents. His slashing lines and spattered ink are part skill, part chance and part hydrological experiment. When you work that way, you can’t be too picky about your materials. The reverse side of the above drawing shows how some of Wood’s more fortunate accidents take place on stray scraps of paper:

I like Wood’s work. I like that he seems to draw on every available surface, from the backs of envelopes to waste paper, sometimes taping pages together when his experiment runs out of room.

I find his emphasis on telephone lines in these drawings worth noting for two reasons.

First, they show an important difference between drawing and photography. In most photographs, phone wires are so thin and insubstantial they don’t even show up. They certainly never rise to the important compositional element that Wood has made them here. It takes a human brain to fix upon a physically insignificant element and amplify and distort it into a major part of the drawing.

Second, Wood’s awareness of the telephone lines reveals the care and sensitivity necessary to make a “spontaneous” style effective. Despite the vigorous, almost violent appearance of these drawings, it required a subtle eye to notice a detail like telephone lines and a thoughtful mind to play them up the way Wood has.


Reading in the news

One in four U.S. adults say they read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday… .

The survey reveals a nation whose book readers, on the whole, can hardly be called ravenous. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year — half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who had not read any, the usual number read was seven.

“I just get sleepy when I read,” said Richard Bustos, a habit with which millions of Americans can doubtless identify. Bustos, a 34-year-old project manager for a telecommunications company, said he had not read any books in the last year and would rather spend time in his backyard pool.
Read the rest:
Poll: 1 in 4 U.S. adults read no books last year (International Herald Tribune)

Related post
American reading habits

Reading in the news

Advice for a Forty-Odder from a Twenty-Something

At the Kilgour lectures, OCLC President Robert Jordan said some rather challenging things to the assembled SILS throng. As an MBA and business guy, he up front admitted that his ideas might rub people the wrong way (but then, so did Fred Kilgour’s).

One of his ideas that stuck with me was his notion that, since UNC SILS requires a student to take more hours and do more work than comparable programs, it’s reasonable to ask whether the degree will make you more money or give you a chance at a more prestigious institution when you graduate.

That idea rattles around in the back of my brain during my classes, even the fun intellectual ones I take. And then, so do articles like this one by Penelope Trunk, on what to do in college to be more successful in your career. Of course, she’s talking to twenty-somethings rather than forty-odders, but let’s see how much of it I can apply to my situation.

  • Get out of the library. Hm, well, the point of my going to back to school is to get out of the office and spend time in a library (and it is a library school, after all). I have a lot of work and life experience, but I want the education to formalize what I know and give me a framework to learn new things.

  • Get involved on campus. It’s tough to be involved with many school activities because I don’t live on-campus, parking is a joke, and I have to give up the hours I would normally work to be on campus for special events. I read somewhere that being involved in career-oriented organizations–like ACM or ASIS&T–are preferred over school-related ones, given the brief time I have to devote to extracurriculars. Also, although I’m plenty involved with outside groups, I’ve never been asked about such participations in an interview and I don’t put them on my resume. At this stage, I have plenty of career experience that takes precedence.

  • Separate your expectations from those of your parents. I would amend this to include co-workers and friends. I would also amend this to yourself. Some older adults going back to school see the degree as the end-all and that the degree will, on its own, open doors to new opportunity. It won’t. My expectations are that my pursuit of the degree will open the doors–the hours spent studying, reading, thinking, meeting people, and so on. By the time the degree is handed to me on graduation day, I should already have plans in place for what happens the day after.

  • Try new things you aren’t good at. Just going back to school is a big new thing. To me, any other new thing is a little new thing.

  • Make your job search a top priority. Ye-e-es, I agree, to a point. If you hate your job, or don’t have a job, getting a job should be the most important thing. In my case, since I’m already working, I’m more concerned with meeting people affiliated with the school and its mission who are in a position to offer jobs. So I would say that meeting people and expanding my network is a top priority.

  • Take an acting course. I used to act in community theater and in college; it’s a great place for meeting people. I think most people, though, would get more out of an improv comedy course: learning to think on your feet, under pressure, with people watching you, is a great experience to have. I took one at Dirty South Comedy Theater in January 2006 and it was a great experience. I actually felt my brain make new connections and re-shape itself. Bizarre. I’d like to take another course again.

  • Get rid of your perfectionist streak. My goal in school is to get B or better grades so that I can 1) get tuition reimbursement from my employer and 2) not obsess over my schoolwork. As one of my managers drilled into me, “Just give me 80 percent. Your quality level is already high enough that it’ll be better than someone else’s 100 percent.” The key is to balance effort against value: if it’s a paper that only counts 10 points, it’ll get less attention than the presentation worth 30 points. Depend on your teachers/teammates for feedback indicating if the work isn’t good enough.

  • Work your way through college. Heh. Next.

  • Make to-do lists. I’m performing much better in school having spent the last 20 years learning about productivity and efficiency systems. My favorite methodology at the moment is Mark Forster’s book Do It Tomorrow. (Here is Mark’s website, filled to bursting with great and actionable ideas.)

Considering that I’m now juggling a full-time job, family, banjo practice, and school, efficiency and productivity help me keep it all together.

(originally posted 2007-08-19, updated for

Arf In The Mix

Mike Gold over at the always interesting recently reviewed the new “Arf” book, “Arf Forum”:

Craig Yoe is not the most unusual man I’ve ever met. However, this is a statement that reveals more about me than it does about him, and since this is a review of his work I’ll try to stop scaring people.

Craig Yoe runs this place called Yoe! Studios, which is really just one single studio filled with talented people, a lot of energy, and great fun. They do all kinds of stuff: they create the Big Boy Comics (yes,
they’re still being published), they do those astonishingly packaged comics figurines that Dark Horse sells and they do design work and create toys and sundry chachkis for such clients as Kraft, Warner Bros. and Microsoft.

One of the many statuesque statues Yoe! Studio has done for Dark Horse…

They hand out Yoe! Studio whoopee cushions and thongs at important business trade shows. He used to run the Muppet Workshop. He actually looks like the Kelly Freas drawing, slightly dispelling the myth that if you don’t look like Corporate America, you won’t fit into Corporate America.

The castle that houses Yoe! Studios, the “Facts of Life” TV show was based on the school that was there before Yoe! took over.

Craig Yoe is also a major, long-time comics fan, among the best and brightest Ohio has had to offer comics, which is saying a lot (the tip of the iceberg: Jerry Siegel, Tony Isabella, Maggie Thompson, Mike W. Barr, Harlan Ellison, ComicMix’s own Martha Thomases and Mike Raub). But, to no one’s surprise, his tastes are as unusual as he is.

For the past couple years, he’s been foisting his line art fantasies on the general public with his Arf series, published by Fantagraphics. There are three such books out right now – in order, Modern Arf, Arf Museum, and Arf Forum. No matter how hardcore a comics enthusiast you might be, there’s a lot of weird stuff in these volumes that you should see, that you would want to see.

(order Arf Forum here)

His roster of reprinted talent includes (in alphabetical order): Ernie Bushmiller, Charlie Chaplin, Robert Crumb, Salvador Dali, Dan DeCarlo, Jack Davis, Rudolph Dirks, Max Ernst, Jimmy Hatlo, Hugh Hefner, Reamer Keller, George Herriman, Frank King, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Patrick McDonnell, Pablo Picasso, Artie Spiegelman, Mort Walker, and Wally Wood. That’s a really eclectic group of cartoonists; and, yes, I meant cartoonists. You might not have perceived some of the above as such.

This is one of the many great images related to reading comic books in the latest “Arf Forum” book…

(click for a closer look)

There’s tons of comics in each action-packed volume, with a bit of a focus on cheesecake and pin-up. Most of it falls into the “extremely hard to find and I’ll bet you’ve never seen it before” category. Some falls into the “never before reprinted” category. Almost all of it falls into the “holy shit” category. Craig wisely keeps the narrative to a minimum, letting the graphics speak for themselves.

Each “Arf” book features a cartoonist that drew sexy pin-up style cartoons. “Arf Forum” presents the Italian artist Kremos…

“And now get undressed, agent X4781. This document is very compromising and must be sewn in your panties.”
“But, if it were so important, wouldn’t it be better to put it in a more secure place, chief?”

(click for a closer look)

If it’s possible to put a creator’s most bizarre predilections between the covers, Craig Yoe has done just that in his Arf series. They must be seen to be believed, but if you’re placing an order at your friendly neighborhood comics shop or at Amazon or you’re at one of the better big box bookshops, each book (there will be more) is $19.95 and if you’ve got it to spare, take a shot in the dark. He’s got (surprise!) a website all about it, and he takes orders there.

Artsey-fartsey has never been so much fun. I doubt you’ll be disappointed, and you just might be amazed.

Arf In The Mix