Saturday, January 24, 2009

Buying Ink by the Pixel

An age-old aphorism states, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” Attributed variously to Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and H.L. Mencken, the basis for this adage is rooted in the idea that newspaper editors, authors and writers are somehow omnipotent, as they can disseminate their side of the argument to a much wider audience through their publications.

Those days are gone.

Today, everyone has access to wide variety of outlets in which to express their views of the world. Sure, editors and columnists may have a ready-made audience, but the success of individual web sites and blogs has certainly narrowed the gap.

Just because you don’t work for the newspaper doesn’t mean you can’t get your opinions in print. This very publication has a quite an open editorial policy. Drop a note to the Frisco Enterprise (you can find the e-mail address in the masthead on page two) and chances are you’ll see your comments in an upcoming edition. Naturally, you’ll want to make your point relevant to current events. And bear in mind that the extraneous use of colorful epithets may not help your case. But if you make a cogent argument, the editor is likely to give you the benefit of the doubt. For those of you inclined to wax rhapsodic in a more loquacious fashion (that is, use a bunch of big words), you might consider penning an entire editorial column. Trust me, newspapers are always looking for unique content from their local readership.

When I started writing “The Frisco Line,” the first thing I asked for was a web page where I could post my articles, soliciting feedback and comments from readers. With the agreement of my editor, I launched a Blog at I had the choice of a myriad of online services, most of them free. Shortly thereafter, my wife launched her own site. Now, I can think of half a dozen people off hand that post their various musings for anyone so inclined to read. Most of them aren’t looking to capture a world-wide audience or become the next Drudge Report. Instead, just the act of articulating their thoughts in a public forum gives them a chance to closely examine their beliefs, and often refine them a bit.

If you’re not ready to step up to your own Blog, check out some of the online discussion sites. I spend a fair amount of time perusing the Frisco Online forums ( While I don’t personally contribute much, there’s a robust crowd of folks out there that aren’t afraid to share their opinions. Again, with a minimum of effort, you can make your positions known and, hopefully, take away a few nuggets of wisdom yourself. Fair warning, though: participating in the forums is not for the faint of heart. Be prepared for folks to take a razor sharp scalpel to your ideas.

If writing’s not your bag of chips, how about the noble art of oration? In the days of Rome, opinions rang out from every street corner. In modern times, if you stood on the corner of Preston and Main and started spouting ideas, you’d be more likely to draw the attention of the local mental health authorities than an audience. But just about every municipal meeting – from the City Council to the Urban Forestry Board – has a slot on their agenda for “public input.” That’s your chance to rise and speak to just about any topic you see fit. Sadly, due to the convoluted requirements of the Texas Open Meeting Laws, the board members won’t be able to respond directly. But you’ll have had your say and, if you strike a nerve, chances are you’ll see that topic on a future agenda. And in the case of the City Council, your performance is captured and broadcast on local cable stations and across the internet. Your 15 minutes of fame have begun!

While you’re at it, don’t stop at just attending a board meeting, go ahead and join the board! Every year, there are dozens of board memberships open for appointment. All it takes is filling out a simple form, submitting a resume and then undergoing a 15-minute grilling by the City Council. Come through that process and your odds of getting on a board are pretty good. Personally, I had to go through the process twice before garnering a seat on the Community Development Corporation board, but it’s been well worth it.

In casual conversations with friends, acquaintances and the odd fellow citizen in line at Starbucks, I find that there is no lack of opinions about Frisco, North Texas and the world in general. Sure, you can continue piping up at the local watering hole, hoping someone picks up on your ideas. But why take the chance? Never before in the course of human history have ordinary folks had more access to more people through more media outlets.

Go ahead, share!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Bottom 10

The Pollyanna Principle: a term used to describe people who agree with positive statements describing them or things close to them. See also: The Frisco Line.

That’s right, folks, I’ve got a pretty rosy outlook on our fair burg. A quick review of past editions of The Frisco Line shows a definite predisposition to highlighting the positive aspects our Frisco, Texas.

But not all is sun and roses in North Texas. Just last month, I compiled a list of the top 10 things I love about Frisco. This month, it’s time to look at the dark side. Contrary to popular belief, there are some things about this area that set off my personal peeve-meter. Some are particular to Frisco, while others apply to the entire region. Some can be fixed. Others I’ll just have to learn to live with. Here, then, in no particular order… the Bottom 10:

Topographical Relief – Yeah, I know. This is North Texas. It’s flat. But I grew up around the Wichita Mountains in southwest Oklahoma. Then, a 12-year stint near the Wasatch Range in Utah firmly planted a love of the vertical in my psyche. Now, I’ve been in Frisco for almost 10 years… give me a mountain! A hill… a bump… anything that goes UP!

No Trees – First of all, let’s just discount all the silver leaf maples and other quick-growing trees that builders plant in every development. You can find dense groves of trees in the undeveloped plots around town. But those are really just “trash trees” that provide some ground cover, but mostly get in the way. I’m looking for some Oaks. Some Elms. Some deciduous or coniferous edifices that provide equal parts of beauty and shade!

Traffic and Toll Roads – Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it seems like the lights on the access roads along the tollways are set to slow you down. Every time I approach the on-ramps to SH-121 or the Dallas North Speedway, I go through a quick “time vs. money” debate. Is it worth a buck and a half to avoid a couple of stop lights? Then I roll the dice, figuring there’s at least an even chance that the lights will be green. No such luck. Going the speed limit along the access road just seems to ensure that you hit EVERY RED LIGHT along the way. And Preston Road is no better. Whatever happened to timing stop lights so you can travel just under the speed limit and hit green lights all along the way? Not in Frisco, I guess.

Naming Things After People Who Are Still Working – More than anything, this really accentuates the lack of significant history in Frisco. We just don’t have that many notable figures to draw from. We’ve already got a Dr. Pink road and a Dr. Pink stadium. Now, I’m not debating whether the people in question deserve the honor – I’m sure they do. It’s just that naming buildings and parks after people who are still actively involved in city business sort of gives them an unfair advantage. Honestly, how are you going to argue the finer points of civic matters with Mike Simpson when you’re standing in the middle of Simpson Plaza?

Summer Heat – When I left Utah, I was looking forward to not having to shovel three feet of snow every winter. But I guess I wasn’t quite prepared for living through 3 months of inferno! At least when it snows, I can put on more clothes.

The Water – Have you tasted our water lately? Earlier this year, the North Texas Municipal Water district made some changes to how the water is processed, with the goal to eliminate that funky taste that so many of us have come to recognize. Keep working, guys.

No Performance Center – Mrs. Line and I love to go out to plays, musical events and other “cultural” activities. Sadly, we have to travel to McKinney, Plano, Dallas, or any number of other cities to satisfy our needs. Frisco does not have a single, decent performance venue, outside of the high school auditoriums. The new Dr Pepper Stars center is going to provide a nice venue for mid-sized concerts, but it doesn’t address the need for a theatre where we can catch a play or a jazz recital.

School Zones de Jour – My children were fortunate to attend Curtsinger Elementary throughout their grade school years. But most other Frisco residents aren’t so lucky. I know of some students who have changed schools almost every year! Other than that “new school smell,” that can’t be any fun. I’m looking forward to the day when FISD can slow down the new building and let things settle down.

BONUS PEEVE: “Kiddos.” I don’t have kiddos. I have children, or kids. If I have to listen to one more principal or teacher laud our wonderful “kiddos” I’m gonna lose my cookies!

Hike and Bike Trails (or Lack Thereof) – Until some of the large tracts of land are developed in town, it’s unlikely we’ll have a robust set of trails that link up to take you around town. For now, we’re limited to some nice trails here and there (Taychas Trail and Caddo Trail come to mind), but no way for most of us to get to them, short of driving.

So, that’s nine. Oddly, long discussions with my wife, poker group, and random characters on street corners failed to conjure up a tenth. So I’ll wrap up my gripe list, and return to my usual sunny disposition. Frisco, Texas, may not be paradise, but I’ll take it.