Actor William Shatner celebrates his 81st birthday today. He is best known for his role in the Star Trek television series and films, but has had a long and wildly varied career that... continues to... boldly go where no man has gone before, one might say.

Captain James T. Kirk was a constant presence in my home, growing up—my dad was a huge Trekkie. I think it's fair to guess that many Boing Boing readers also consider this character, and Shatner's broader body of work, a formative part of their lives as nerds.

I recently attended his one-man-show, "Shatner's World," in Hollywood. It was a hoot. You should catch it when it comes to your town. The fate of Star Trek: The Original Series was closely linked to that of the American space program in the late 1960s, and Shatner tells some wonderful anecdotes about the historic ties to NASA in his touring performance. My favorite? His visit to Kennedy Space Center to see the Apollo LEM up-close, and a funny prank the astronauts and engineers played on him. But I won't blog any spoilers, go see it yourself.

Also, his most recent book, Shatner Rules (2011), might help you make sense of the universe. To the extent that the universe really makes any sense, that is.

Happy birthday, Rocket Man.

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