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Seeing is believing?

I haven't seen the movie "Selma" and won't.

And I'm kind of glad in a way that it did not win big at the Oscars last night.


I don't think people who present "history" but deliberately distort parts of it for their own purposes should be rewarded.

I never cared for Oliver Stone's approach to movie-making, either, taking historical "facts" and messing with them.

The problem with "Selma" was its portrayal of the role of Lyndon B. Johnson in getting civil rights legislation passed. The movie makes Johnson into a bad guy. The fact is, he was the good guy in terms of the promotion of civil rights, period.

I'm concerned about all of this because I've long felt that people believe more about the history they see in movies than they do in what they read or hear elsewhere.

My "feeling" is apparently well justified by the facts uncovered by memory scientists.

Jeffrey M. Zacks, a professor at a St. Louis university, wrote an op-ed piece published in The New York Times on Feb. 15 establishing that movie "facts" about history do prevail when people try to remember what happened.

"Studies show that if you watch a film -- even one concerning historical events about which you are informed -- your beliefs may be reshaped by 'facts' that are not factual," he writes.

And then he points out that research also shows that there is not much that can be done to undo those "facts" after the fact, as it were.

Once they're there, they're there.

So, in my opinion, they shouldn't be there in the first place.

Paying top dollar

Twelve of the top 25 jobs in terms of pay and demand did not even exist 25 years ago.

They are all related in some way to computers and databases.

For example, at No. 3 on the list compiled and released this week by Glassdoor is Software Architect. Average base salary is $130,891, and there 3,229 openings right now.

Analytics Manager is at No. 8, paying an average of $116,000.

The other 13 on the list are more traditional. What's No. 1?

Physician takes the top. Average base salary is $212,270, and there are 8,000 openings. Pharmacy Manager is No. 2 with a base salary of $132,000.

I wonder what would be at the top of this kind of list if it were compiled in Sweden, Norway, England, Denmark, Germany, Japan?

Where movies are king

Libraries have not been just all about books for quite some time.

We're about so much more: programs, computers, databases, CD books and, yes, movies. Lots of movies.

In fact, last year patrons checked out more movie DVDs than anything else. DVDs were checked out 26,500 times. If each checkout is worth $22, that's a service value of nearly $600,000 for the year.

Right behind that number in terms of checkouts and total value were regular adult fiction books. We checked them out 20,500 times with a value of $25 for each checkout. Third in popularity were our children's books, with 20,000 checkouts for a total value of $400,000.

It's interesting to note that nearly 5,000 books were downloaded using Overdrive, our e-book consortium.

All these figures come from our end-of-year value-of-services report compiled by Library Director Carolyn Manning.

For the record, the services we offered were worth $7 for every $1 of sales tax income invested in the library district.

It all adds up

The most expensive textbook I bought when I was in grad school cost me $35.

That was in about 1973. Today, inflation would have pushed the price of that same book to more than $186.


No wonder students and their families are looking to professors to do something a little different in this age of the Internet and e-publishing.

The Bryan-College Station newspaper recently reported on a discussion undertaken by Texas A&M librarians about the high cost of textbooks, and the librarians noted that research last year showed that students pay an average of $1,200 a year on books.

The librarians and students seem to be contending with recalcitrant, old-fashioned professors who refuse to update their text preferences.

This is not only not in the best long-term interests of the professors but certainly not in the best interests of students and their families who are facing ever-rising debt loads to be able to afford a college education.

In fact, reluctant profs should be called on the carpet about this kind of thing, tenure be darned.

A valuable service

Congress is often criticized for getting nothing done.

But, here's a shout-out for the bureaucrats in D.C. for putting together a reallly useful public service.

Andrew Weber at the Law Library of Congress has reported that three types of e-mail alerts are now being sent out to those who request them.

You can now get an e-mail that a specific member of Congress has either sponsored or cosponsored legislation. Another type of alert is a daily summary of the text, cosponsor or action on a particular bill that you're watching. And the third type of alert lets you know when a new issue of the Congressional Record is available at Congress.gov.

If you've ever tried to figure out what your congressional representative is actually doing, here's a great way to find out without getting bogged down in the flotsam and jetsam of congressional jibber-jabber.

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