Tag Archive for: Captain Kirk

Do you know where the title of this piece comes from? No, it wasn’t Star Trek. It was first uttered by Sir John Dalberg-Acton, a European Baronet from 1837 to 1869. But in my opinion, it was never uttered more powerfully than in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode Where No Man Has Gone Before.

In that show, the starship Enterprise attempts to penetrate an energy barrier at the edge of our galaxy, in order to discover the fate of a previous expedition. They failed, and were lucky to extract themselves from the barrier without blowing up. With the ship badly damaged, they decide to limp to an automated facility on the uninhabited planet Delta Vega and attempt repairs. As a result of their contact with the energy barrier, Captain Kirk’s friend Gary Mitchell (he of the glowing eyes) seems to have developed telekinetic abilities. And they’re growing every day.

An ever-more-powerful Gary eventually decides that the ship and its crew aren’t worth his caring. Before he can take over, however, Kirk and Spock manhandle him down to the planet’s surface. There, they imprison him as they cannibalize the station to fix the ship’s warp drive.

But it wouldn’t be a show if everything went smoothly; Gary escapes. He takes a female psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, with him after he converts her into a godlike being as well.

Recognizing a threat to the whole of humanity, Kirk follows Mitchell with a phaser rifle — like that’s going to kill him!

During their confrontation, which Kirk is losing, he turns to Dehner and asks: Do you like what you see? Absolute power corrupting absolutely.” Pause there.

Let’s think about this for a minute. If you were suddenly given godlike powers, how would you behave? Would you respect the same things? Would you respect human life, for instance?

My guess is that it would depend on your individual makeup.


I created a character, Cord Devlin, who also comes by near-absolute power in Ghosts of Forgotten Empires. He’s an intelligence freelancer, and his handlers at the CIA wonder if he can be trusted. Like Gary Mitchell, they know he faces a similar moral dilemma. Will he be corrupted? Will he lose respect for humanity? They deploy him anyway, because they don’t have any other way to counter an enemy that’s also armed with unearthly powers.

In addition to Cord’s suspect loyalty, he also has an inexplicable preoccupation with Star Trek. It does, however, provide him with a moral compass and typically restrains him from causing undue destruction. But would some personally-held ideal of human behavior be enough to restrict his darker impulses? The stakes are high, given his newfound abilities to annihilate.


Kirk defeats the corrupted Gary by using his phaser rifle to dislodge several tons of rock from above. The rocks fall on Gary while he’s conveniently standing in a grave he meant for Kirk. Problem solved, and humanity is safe from Kirk’s former friend.

So does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Who can know, judging by the experiences of a couple of fictional characters? But it’s a worthy thought experiment.


Do you know anyone who is typically virtuous? How do you think they’d behave, given absolute power?


The End

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That’s how my CPA sounds when I think I’ve got everything covered.


I’ve been organizing my taxes since 1997, when I started my own home business. Note that I used the word organizing as opposed to actually doing my taxes. The incomprehensible mishmash that is tax-preparation is so daunting to me that I would never dream of doing anything more than organizing — and even that intimidates the s**t out of me.

I’d like to think that most people who know me would use descriptors like even-tempered and mild-mannered. Most of the time, that is correct. The rare exception is when I’m trying to hunt down some obscure bit of information that was allegedly mailed to me and is vital to the successful completion of the onerous task of tax prep.

Way back, when my tax returns got more complicated because of my business, I knew that I didn’t have the mental wherewithal to tackle the annual tax-season cluster fork (thanks, spellchecker).

I have a degree in engineering. As such I’ve studied Calculus, Differential Equations, Quantum Mechanics, and even achieved a rudimentary understanding of the Theory of Relativity.

But taxes? Forget about it.

Off I went to find a good CPA. Thankfully, over the course of 25 years, I’ve been lucky enough to find two to whom I’m comfortable revealing my fiscal life story.

But here’s the exasperating part:

Each year, just after being stumped by yet another surprise question from the CPA, I make a note so I’ll be able to answer it the following year. Then next year comes, and guess what? I’m stumped by a new question. The goal posts are always moving! The IRS doesn’t make up new rules each year, do they?


Ever hear of Fizzbin? It’s a card game with rules so byzantine that participants will suffer the most debilitating brain cramp as to render them nearly defenseless to physical assault. Which is exactly the effect its creator, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, intended it to have.

One time, Kirk and Spock were captured by hostile aliens who, weirdly enough, looked a lot like Al Capone’s henchmen. As our heroes cooled their heels while under armed guard, they devised a plan of escape.

Kirk brilliantly used their captors’ love of playing poker against them. He made up the game of Fizzbin; a real man’s game that their cardplaying captors couldn’t resist trying to learn. Here’s a snippet of the dialog.


KIRK: On Beta Antares Four, they play a real game. It’s a man’s game, but of course, it’s probably a little beyond you. It requires intelligence.
Chief Jailer: Listen, Kirk, I can play anything you can figure out. Take the cards, big man. Show us how it’s played.
KIRK: The name of the game is called Fizzbin.
Chief Jailer: Fizzbin?
KIRK: Fizzbin. It’s not too difficult. Each player gets six cards, except for the player on the dealer’s right, who gets seven.
Chief Jailer: On the right.
KIRK: Yes. The second card is turned up, except on Tuesdays.
Chief Jailer: On Tuesday.
KIRK: Oh, look what you got! Two jacks. You got a half-Fizzbin already.
Chief Jailer: I need another jack.
KIRK: No, no. If you got another jack, why, you’d have a sralk.
Chief Jailer: A sralk?
KIRK: Yes. You’d be disqualified. You need a king and a deuce, except at night of course, when you’d need a queen and a four.
Chief Jailer: Except at night.
KIRK: Right. Oh, look at that! You’ve got another jack. How lucky you are! How wonderful for you. If you didn’t get another jack — if you’d gotten a king — why then you’d get another card, except when it’s dark, when you’d have to give it back.
Chief Jailer: If it were dark on Tuesday.
KIRK: Yes, but what you’re after is a Royal Fizzbin, but the odds in getting a royal fizzbin are … well, they’re astronomical, believe me. Now, for the last card. We’ll call it a kronk. You got that?
Chief Jailer: What?


And with massively befuddled captors, Kirk, Spock and McCoy easily overpowered their jailers and took their Tommy guns.

This is how I feel at the CPA’s office: like Kirk’s captors. You could take my Tommy gun, wallet, and car keys, and I’d just be drooling in the corner after a lecture on the incomprehensible tax code.

Does this describe your dealings with tax accountants, too?


The End


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