—Rielle Hunter, referring to former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards in her candid and somewhat befuddling interview with Lisa DePaulo in April’s GQ magazine.
Trent Gilliss, online editor
Shubha Bala, associate producer
A couple of weeks before my birthday, my mom sent me an e-mail reminding me when my “star birthday” was — March 14th, by the way — and saying she was donating to a local temple on that day so they can provide free food for the congregation. Although I’ve always been told when my star birthday was, this was the first time I went on a quest to find out what it was.
Simply put, your star birthday is your birthday using the Hindu calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar. Hindu calendars are traditionally used to derive entire individual horoscopes, which are culturally consulted for just about everything — from determining a baby’s name to finding the best wedding location (and person!)
Your birth star, or Janma Nakshatra, is just one component of the calendar. If you draw a line from where you were born, at the time you were born, to the moon, the Janma Nakshatra is the star constellation that the line would pass through. Each month has 27 Nakshatras, which means some Nakshatras will occur twice in a month.
As with most aspects of Hinduism, there is no rule as to what significance a star birthday has. For example, I spoke to Narayanan Kandanchatha, who grew up in the Indian state of Kerala and is from the sub-caste Nambudiripad. He said that each year they would have to do an important prayer on their star birthday. In his case, the star was so critical that if it was missed, rather than do it the next day, they would wait until the Nakshatra of the following month. He also said that in his culture, in order to do a Upanayanam ceremony (the male coming of age ceremony for the Brahmin caste), a boy must have conducted a special ceremony on his Nakshatra 36 times.
For my mom, her tradition was to wear new clothes on her star birthday. Then she mailed me a new shirt to wear. Some people believe naming your baby with the same first syllable as their star is auspicious. My parents didn’t intend it, but in researching this blog I discovered that I coincidentally ended up with an auspicious first name!
Finding your star birthday
- Find your Janma Nakshatra when you were born by using this calculator and your birth year (mine is Satabhisha.)
- Next find the Hindu month in which you were born. Scroll to the table of Hindu months here to find the start and end dates for that month. For example, I was born March 5, which would be the month Phalguna, starting on February 20.
- Then, go back to this first calculator, and for the date range enter your full Hindu birth month (e.g., February 20 - March 19) for the current year. It will give you a table with all the Nakshatras for the month. Find the date your Nakshatra lands on, and that is your star birthday this year (March 14 for me). If your Nakshatra occurs two times in that month, the second time is when you would celebrate your star birthday.
Since Hinduism is a religion composed of diverse cultures and history, the details in this procedure can change. Many cultures define their months differently. Also, some people don’t use the Nakshatra at all, using instead the Tithi, a completely different aspect of the calendar. But I’ll leave you to investigate these varieties on your own.
Colleen Scheck, senior producer
We were pleased to see The Daily Beast featured the New York Public Library’s backstage clip of their event with Krista last week. It’s a short snippet, and, with a bit of prime-time drama-like production, it effectively captures the substance and tenor of the event.
We’d been in touch with Paul Holdengräber and Meg Stemmler at the NYPL for a few months to prepare for this live evening — including discussions about various formats and stage partners (such as Alan Alda, who couldn’t make it). While it came off seamlessly, there was a bit of last-minute heroics that made it all happen.
Archival audio clips of Albert Einstein and segments from Krista’s conversations with Paul Davies, Freeman Dyson, and Andrew Solomon were selected and pulled together minutes before the performance began. (Moments like that make me think of the famous frantic-run scene from Broadcast News when Joan Cusack’s character rushes a videotape to the studio for live broadcast, pushing people aside and sliding under an open file cabinet. Well, ok, so it wasn’t that dramatic.)
In the end, NYPL’s brilliant ideas were worth it. Hearing the voice of Einstein was a fun and compelling way to open this conversation about the intersection of science, theology, philosophy, and medicine that is the backbone of Krista’s new book. And a wonderful conversation it was between Krista, Andrew Solomon, and Paul Holdengräber — exploring that intersection on both richly intellectual and deeply personal levels.
With a full house in NYC of more than 500 people, we were also excited that over 5,700 others watched our live stream online — something we are doing more of so that we can include the many of you who aren’t able to attend in person. It’s only fair, right?
If you missed it, you can watch it here:
And, if you want to participate in our upcoming events in April, check out our SOF Live page. We’ll be live streaming video of Krista’s interview with NPR’s Michel Martin in Washington DC, and Krista will be giving a solo performance in a gorgeous venue in Philadelphia where she’ll be playing clips and answering questions.
Shubha Bala, associate producer
A listener, Russell, e-mailed the other day saying he had been on his own sleuthing expedition expedition to find the original source of an Einstein quote about Buddhism being the cosmic religion of the future. It was referenced in the Particulars section of our show “The Buddha in the World.” He had come up empty-handed and wrote to ask if we knew where the quote came from.
Well, as Nancy’s previous post indicates, many a producer has been challenged by sorting out Einstein’s misquotes from original quotes. So have many other quote detectives. This quote seems to be a good example of how misquoting gets propagated so quickly on the web. Many sites with the quote source this site, which leads to a dead-end since it attributes it only Albert Einstein. Some people source books — Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das and All the Questions You Ever Wanted to Ask American Atheists, Vol II by Madalyn Murray O’Hair — but those books do not source the quotes either.
The best conclusion is this response from the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem:
“The quote under discussion which I know is quite ‘popular’, could so far paraphrase of some ideas Einstein developed in an essay titled “Religion and Science” in 1930. Here he mentions the “cosmic religiosity” (not religion!), Buddhism, and a belief that avoids dogma and theology.”
Trent Gilliss, online editor
Many of us have read Nick Kristof’s columns over the years. And, perhaps, like me, you’ve been moved by his words, shaken by his stories, struck dumb with melancholy and grief. But, inevitably, the “plight of the ‘distant stranger’” assumes its role in feeling the events happening over there.
The HBO documentary, Reporter, will challenge you to come closer, to care, to take action as he pursues uncovering the truths behind human rights violations and personal suffering. With Kristof leading the way, the viewer bears witness alongside his two traveling companions, a med student and a teacher, to the tricky trail the journalist walks when reporting in war-torn Congo.
The film portrays some of the ethical and moral dilemmas of being a reporter in a conflict zone. When Kristof encounters a 41-year-old woman of 60 pounds lying at the edge of a village about to die, he acts. When a warlord responsible for the raping and pillaging of thousands gives thanks to the Lord, he bows his head; when that same man, General Nkunda asks him to eat with him, he dines. Few of these decisions are made without some type of deliberation — a grimace, a pause, a controlled look. But, in the end, he always writes.
He perseveres and tries to understand the underlying aspects of the people involved. And, he asks the difficult questions that have gotten other journalists killed. I’m not trying to saint him, but I now better appreciate his work as he attempts to discover a fuller aspect of all the human beings involved. He continues to tell the difficult stories of a region that gets covered during catastrophic events, and then forgotten within a blink’s time of a celebrity foible or the next breaking news event.
I hope we can interview him for the show some day in the future and hear how he wrestles with these difficult choices — and how he continues on.
—Robert Wright, in “Self, Meditating” on his NYT blog.
We’re experiencing some of the same “attachment” now that Krista’s new book is out. Several minutes of this morning’s staff meeting was dedicated to some impromptu analysis of the Einstein’s God ranking on Amazon.
The short: the book seems to be doing well, but the ranking system is a mystery in itself.
Andy Dayton, associate web producer
—Rob Jones, an organizer of a “new movement” linking young people together who want to do some hardcore farm labour for a day.
Shubha Bala, associate producer