Nevada is in bad shape economically–as is most of the nation, but Nevada is as bad if not worse than anywhere. A couple of years ago, all untenured employees at the university where I work were asked to take a pay cut for the next two years. The understanding is that, hopefully, in fiscal year 2011 our salaries will bounce back to their original figures (though God only knows, really).

Because of the dire economic conditions, we all took one for the team–I mean, what can you do? That said, if my salary returns to where it should be next July, I’d be insulted as hell if the administration attempted to make it out to be a raise, wouldn’t you?

No…let’s be clear here…the 4% temporary cut I took was a cut and was always intended to be a cut rather than a permanent adjustment of my salary.

Which brings me to this NPR story that I listened to on the way home from work yesterday. It’s an interview with Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, in which he discusses why he thinks extending the Bush tax cuts in full is a good idea. I’m not going to debate that, because I really don’t know what’s best for this country right now. Frankly, I think Americans could all stand to be hit with a few more taxes, but this is neither here nor there. I’m mentioning this story because of this:

BLOCK: Would you want, Senator Alexander, the tax cuts on the wealthiest earners extended permanently, not just for the two years that you’ve agreed to now?

Sen. ALEXANDER: Keep in mind, these aren’t tax cuts. These are the tax rates that have been in place for 10 years.

BLOCK: But they’re set to expire and they would be extended. And I’m wondering if you would want them to extend permanently.

Sen. ALEXANDER: That means they’re set to go up. So they’re not cuts, they’re tax increases. It’s the largest tax increase in history that’s automatically set to go up January 1st.

What a colossal fucking douchebag. Politics aside, I call them like I see them. From this point on, Lamar Alexander continues pushing the notion that letting the cuts expire is an increase, and at some point, it’s like Melissa Block just says, “Okay, whatever,” and calls the interview finished.

Technically, yes, when I’m once again drawing my full salary, it will be an increase over what I’ve been making, but that’s only because I wasn’t earning what I was supposed to be earning. This is vapid semantic debate at its worst. By this logic, the Bush tax cuts were a tax increase since the tax rate was still higher than it was in 1913.

Douchebag.

Moving on…

I had a dream last night that I met Ricky Gervais and told him that I enjoyed The Invention of Lying, which I watched about a week ago. He was so happy, and then I began telling him about my problems with the film, and he got sad.

For what it’s worth, I did enjoy the film on the whole. Gervais is a funny actor and always makes me laugh, and the premise of the film is hilarious if only because it provides an excuse for the characters to say every mean, horrible thing that we’re all thinking but never say. As a self-described “short, pudgy loser”, Gervais’s character takes the brunt of the abuse, and it’s quite funny for a while. When Gervais’s character discovers the idea of lying, it’s also funny, especially in an early scene in which he attempts to explain the concept to his buddy played by Louis C.K. and bartender played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. They have no concept of telling untruths, so as Gervais makes up one wild claim after the next, each more fantastic than the last, they completely take it at face value and in stride.

When the film gets a little questionable for me is when Gervais has to make up a lie about the afterlife to comfort his dying mother, and inadvertently creates religion. Even though I, personally, believe that God is just an invention of humans, and easily the biggest lie ever told (albeit often benign), I had to wonder if a world without lying truly wouldn’t have a notion of spirituality. I mean, there have always been crazy people, right? Somewhere along the way, somebody would have claimed to have talked to a higher power, or to be the child of God, or whatever. And especially so in a world without lying, you’d think people would have to accept that as a truth.

But if you can accept that nobody ever thought up a “man in the sky” in the lie-free universe, I guess the rest of it plays out in a funny way, if a little predictable.

One other problem I had with the film is the idea that beautiful people only make coupling decisions based upon whether or not their partners are good genetic matches. I don’t know…maybe it’s true, but it’s such a cynical concept.

In any case, this film will make you laugh somewhere along the way, but if I had to recommend a Ricky Gervais movie that you probably haven’t seen, I’d suggest Ghost Town, instead, which was charming in addition to being funny.

Moving on again…

I was invited to Beta test the upcoming DC Universe Online massively-multiplayer online role playing game, so I activated my key and installed the Beta client a couple of nights ago. I’m not allowed to talk about it owing to the non-disclosure agreement, so I’ll simply say this: I’m sort of bored with MMO games in this vein. EVE Online I enjoy because it’s just different from the rest, and the only upcoming title to which I’m looking forward is Star Wars: The Old Republic, and primarily because it looks as though it has so many story elements that it will be as close as you can get to a solo RPG that you play online. Also, Bioware is a brilliant game developer, and a lot of the concepts (like being able to send out companions to do gathering for you so you don’t have to waste your time on the most tedious tasks) are features I’ve been suggesting for years. Also, it’s Star Wars.

Of course, I still haven’t been asked to game test that one… 🙁