Some seek fame online, others have it thrust on them



There are two types of people who are Internet-famous: those who sought the spotlight and those who didn't. And sometimes it's hard to say which group deserves stardom more.

Kyle MacDonald, the former proud owner of a red paper clip, is clearly among those who have sought the spotlight.

Nearly a year ago, the Montreal resident came up with a plan: MacDonald would try to barter his red paper clip for something slightly more valuable, which he would trade for something even more valuable, and so on, until he eventually received a house. Well, MacDonald has yet to receive his house, but his interim success has been phenomenal.

He started small, trading his paper clip for a fish-shaped pen, which he traded for a doorknob. As word spread, MacDonald began making some serious progress.

Gleefully documenting each transaction on his blog,, MacDonald traded the doorknob for a mini camping stove, which he swapped for a beat-up gas generator, then traded that for a beer keg and neon sign.

Clearly gaining momentum by December, MacDonald got an old snowmobile for the keg and sign, and traded it for an all-expenses-paid trip to remote Yahk, British Columbia, which he traded for a Ford moving van that he handed over for a recording contract (with 30 hours recording time and 50 hours post-production time). In his most recent transaction, he swapped the contract this month for one year of free rent in an apartment in downtown Phoenix.

MacDonald has become a media darling and an instant hero among his blogging peers.

"I bow to your wisdom. This idea of yours is absolutely brilliant," wrote one recent commenter on MacDonald's blog.

"Please teach me your ways," wrote another.

To that I say, Amen.

But Internet fame isn't always so kind.

Lee Paige, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent with a one-time itchy trigger finger, is clearly among those who have not sought the spotlight.

Paige injured himself during a gun-safety lecture to a group of Florida children in 2004, and a video of the incident has circulated ever since. (It can be found here:

"I'm the only one in this room professional enough that I know of to carry this Glock .40," Paige boasts in the video just before shooting himself in the foot in front of a stunned crowd.

The scene almost looks like a hoax, or as if Paige is attempting to make some sort of extreme point. But it was no hoax, and Paige's unintentional point was taken by his gasping and cackling audience.

The wounded agent limps around and awkwardly tries to carry on his presentation, but when the crowd starts to jeer as he reaches for an assault rifle, Paige cuts his talk short and leaves the room.

Earlier this month, Paige sued the federal government, claiming fellow DEA agents leaked the video online in an effort to embarrass and discredit him, and noting that he is no longer "permitted or able to give educational motivational speeches and presentations."

To that I say, Amen again.

Sometimes, at least, the Internet spotlight shines right where it should.


Listen to Troy McCullough's podcasts at

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