Michael Tolkin

  • Robert Altman in 1993 at the 50th Venice film festival, where he received first prize for Short Cuts. Photo: Magnum/Nikos Economopoulos.

    Robert Altman

    IS NO ONE GOING TO SAY that Robert Altman was a great pothead? Let me, then. Robert Altman was a great pothead. In the war on drugs, he won. To look at his work without thinking about marijuana’s specific gifts and poisons . . . umm . . . specific . . . What was I saying? Oh. Right. Altman. Robert Altman. I met him, did I tell you that already?

    Or as Fernando Pessoa says, “But he must be on fire somewhere. Otherwise, he will not cook the goose of his human inferiority.”

    Six years before The Player (1992), I stopped smoking pot, for the typical reasons, but not the least of them was paranoia. And

  • Learning From Los Angeles

    THE NEWS CAMERAS HAVE RETREATED and South Central has faded from general public consciousness, back into the simmering void of preriot political neglect. Yet, as the following contributions from Michael Tolkin, Peter Sellars, and Avital Ronell suggest, the Rodney King event has become a signpost in our intellectual and political imaginations. For Los Angeles social archaeologist Mike Davis, writing in The Nation, the King case, as the “symbol that links unleashed police racism in Los Angeles to the crisis of black life everywhere, . . . may be almost as much of a watershed in American history

  • Michael Tolkin

    THE WEEKEND BEFORE the riots I started making notes. Something was happening, to either me or the city, and I began to watch myself as just another body in the crowd, as another symptom. I had an elaborate plan for an essay, but I was busy, so I jotted down a few words to remind me of key moments from Saturday to Monday. Then the riots came, and I didn’t get back to the notes until I was asked to contribute something to this issue. I decided just to footnote the notes and let it go at that.

    1. Sweltering afternoon. A tent over the tennis court.

    2. Around the sidelines caterers had set up large