An Inter-Species Crowd: How to Talk to Animals and Space Aliens

by Leanne Ogasawara 1. Imagine finding out that intelligent life has been discovered on the far side of the galaxy. To learn that across the endless expanse of intergalactic space there exists a planet filled with new forms of life –and riches unimagined– if only we can find them. It won’t be as easy. Even…

Love Letter to a Vanishing World

by Leanne Ogasawara 1. Of all the places I’ve never been, Borneo is my favorite. I have several times been within spitting distance: to the Philippines—as far south as Panay; to the court cities of central Java and to the highlands of Sulawesi, in Indonesia. I’ve spent many happy days on Peninsular Malaysia. Have lived…

When Freud met the Antichrist in Orvieto

by Leanne Ogasawara 1. I had been in Orvieto about a week, when a young American woman came up to me in the painted chapel and said, “Excuse me, do you speak English?” Not waiting for my answer she continued, “Do you have any idea what these paintings mean?” Looking at her astonished face, I…

Thomas Bernhard and the City of Dreams

by Leanne Ogasawara Arriving in Vienna, we immediately set out for District 14, in the western suburbs of the city. Exhausted after the long journey from Los Angeles, all we wanted to do was get something to eat and crash out in our room. Unfortunately, Viennese architect Otto Wagner’s legendary church was only opened to…

When the World Broke: Looking back at the 3-11 Triple Disaster in Japan

by Leanne Ogasawara Earthquake 1. It was around midnight, Los Angeles time. And my mobile pinged with an incoming message. “Sorry to text so late, but you should turn on the TV.” It was from an old friend. He didn’t text me often, so I knew something was wrong. I grabbed my laptop. There was…

The Killing of Qassem Soleimani and Drone Proof Cities

by Leanne Ogasawara 1. It was at the height of Obama’s massive acceleration of George W’s drone program, when city planner Asher J Kohn began imagining his drone-proof “Shura City.” He did this, he said, “Out of the realization that the law had no response to drone warfare.” And so he came up with his…

Searching for Exoplanets with Christopher Columbus

by Leanne Ogasawara Imagine finding out that intelligent life had been discovered in our galaxy. To learn that across the endless ocean of intergalactic space there exists a planet filled with new forms of life –and riches unimagined: this was how it must have felt for the people of the Renaissance, when Christopher Columbus discovered…

The Time of White Dew (白露): 

by Leanne Ogasawara Photographs by Tracey Parmley Nuki 1. Back from three weeks on the road, I immediately consult my Japanese almanac. To my delight, I see we are now in the Time of White Dew (白露): Falling just prior to the Autumnal Equinox, the sun is said to have passed the 165th solar degree…

Gender-Bending Rock Stars: Counter-Tenors, Castrati and the Wild and Crazy Baroque

by Leanne Ogasawara One God, One Farinelli… Stepping onto the stage, the singer draws in a long breath as he gazes out across the audience. For a moment, he is blinded by the light of innumerable candles. So lavishly lit, it is a miracle that the theater didn’t burn down more than it did over…

Travels with the Pasha (On Memorial Day in America)

by Leanne Ogasawara 1. The year was 1683. And the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, Kara Mustafa Pasha, was leading one of the most organized war machines the world had ever seen, westward– toward Vienna. We know that his campaign would end in failure. The Pasha himself held ultimately responsible, he would be made to suffer the…

Do Octopuses Have Souls? (On the Nature of Animal Consciousness)

by Leanne Ogasawara Anyone who has ever found themselves caught in a staring contest with an octopus –those soulful cat-eyes returning your gaze through the thick glass of an aquarium tank– can attest to the uncanny power these creatures exert over our human imagination. They certainly look alien. With three hearts pumping blue, copper-infused blood,…

Translating Descartes

by Leanne Ogasawara 1. The philosopher and the translator It was probably the most interesting translation job I ever had. Hired directly by the philosopher himself, my task was to translate into English a series of talks and papers he would be delivering in the US and Europe in the coming year. Philosophy being what…

A Symphony of Vanishing Sounds (The Insect Apocalypse)

by Leanne Ogasawara I’d been living in Tokyo about ten years, when a friend’s father decided to perform a little experiment on me. Arriving one cool autumn evening at their home in suburban Mejirodai, he waved my friend away, telling her: “I want to have a little chat with Leanne.” Sitting down on the sofa…

On the Trail of Leonardo– Confusion, Collusion, and Connoisseurship

by Leanne Ogasawara It was mid-summer 2011 when the news broke that a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci painting had been found. Apparently, a New York City art dealer noticed the picture at an estate sale in Louisiana and purchased it for around $10,000. This occurred back in 2005, and the following six years were spent…

Report from Salzburg

by Leanne Ogasawara “Someday, I’d like to visit Salzburg when the Summer Festival’s not going on. That way, I can see if the place is real; for I just can’t help wondering if Salzburg is not some kind of enchanted fairy world, which only comes into being when the music is playing…” “Nonsense” said our…

Being Alone with Las Meninas (Forgetting Michel Foucault)

by Leanne Ogasawara We should first count our blessings that Dan Brown has never written about the painting. Though I suspect such a seemingly matter-of-fact picture as Velázquez’s Las Meninas would not serve as an easy target. With no hint of the occult –nor even a whiff of the Templars– it probably wouldn’t capture his attention. And…