Now Reading: Philip Seymour Hoffman, a better Twitter, CVS cigarettes, Amazon pilots

‘Now Reading’ is a collection and sharing of online stories and is meant for minimal consumption by the few readers of this blog. Topics include books, food, culture, photography, media and technology … there are no rules. Have a story to add? Share it in the comments.

Philip Seymour Hoffman reads

With the Super Bowl last Sunday and then a busy few days in the college football world with National Signing Day, I was a bit late to all of the Philip Seymour Hoffman reads that circulated the Internet after his sad death a few days ago.

So I collected a handful of the ones I read and will lump them all together here in case you, too, were late to the content and would like to read a few of the good pieces out there.

Derek Thomas on The Atlantic discusses Hoffman’s incredible versatility and all the different roles he not only performed but performed so extraordinarily.

This seems to be the most common theme among the written Hoffman memorials – that he was brilliant in becoming entirely different kinds of people over and over again, effortlessly playing contortionist with his acting talent. This was the source of Hoffman’s on-screen magic but also, possibly, a driving force in his drug addiction and eventual overdose (hold that point).

Alex Pappademas runs through Hoffman’s career arc in his obit on Grantland.

Michael Wilson in The New York Times did good, if incredibly sad and depressing, work piecing together the final days of Hoffman’s life. It’s still a mystery – and maybe always will be – why after more than two decades sober, Hoffman turned to heroin. In the last days of his life, though, there were signs things weren’t right to those who saw him in public, as you’ll read in Michael’s piece.

Jeff Deeney, a recovering addict, writes an important – and quite polarizing – piece in The Atlantic based around the question of how to best handle heroin users. The number of heroin users is quickly rising, and Deeney advocates for legal injecting sites like Vancouver has. He writes that these sites allow for users to be monitored by doctors, and overdoses can be potentially reversed with a medicine called Naloxone.

Deeney writes that we need to forget about the idea that this keeps people using drugs and focus on what it does do – keep them alive and give them another hope of getting clean. Dead people, as Deeney writes, can’t get clean.

This will be an uncomfortable viewpoint for many – giving people a place to “safely” inject heroin – but Deeney is certainly more informed on the subject than most people, and the premise of his thinking is something we can all agree on. That is, that only thing that matters is finding the best way to prolong an overdose knowing that time, if nothing else, gives people a chance.

Mark Harris writes in Grantland about Hoffman’s New York legacy — how he represented the people in many ways – and Lee Siegel writes in The New Yorker how Hoffman could amazingly sink into his characters and also the cost of that kind of artistic expression.

I want to link those two piece together, because they both tackle that question of cost, which I think is the most mysterious part of Hoffman’s decline and, ultimately, his death.

As mentioned above, people seemed to love more than anything Hoffman’s ability to become different people. But when we begged for more of this from him, did we ever ask, “If Philip Seymour Hoffman can so easily and magically become all these different people on screen, then who actually is Philip Seymour Hoffman?”

This snippet from Mark’s piece was particularly poignant:

On the nights I watched him play Willy, I found it impossible to imagine what he did after the curtain came down. How do you live one man’s apocalypse six days a week and then step back into the intact and undisturbed self you left somewhere in your small dressing room? What does it cost? Like all of his stage work, his Willy Loman felt, to me, dangerous.

The “suffering artist” narrative is a slippery cliché that I think is far overused, but I don’t say that to dispute its veracity in totality.

I think pain, in some form, does exist deep in many brilliant artists, but it seems (to me) to be more of a wandering pain than a suffering pain. When you give yourself totally and fully over to characters, who are you? Are you anyone, precisely? Do you “own” your life anymore, or are you predominantly a caricature, drifting from script to script for money, and “real life” is very much just another role to be filled?

It’s a weird, philosophical thought, and I don’t actually intend to get so “deep” on that, but it makes some sense, right? If you can easily be 10 people, you can’t possibly so easily be one.

What did that contortionist talent do to Philip Seymour Hoffman? Is that what drove him to drugs, this elusiveness of self inside him?

I have no idea. These are just thoughts.

A better Twitter

Twitter has been taking a bit of a public beating with its recent underwhelming earnings report, and its less-than-impressive user growth is the issue at hand here.

Robert Hof writes in Forbes about the four ways Twitter CEO Dick Costolo plans to improve the platform.

How Amazon forced CVS to stop selling cigarettes

I thought this Marcus Wohlsen piece in Wired about how CVS is trying to stay ahead of Amazon’s jaws by ditching tobacco products and rebranding itself as a place of wellness rather than just a place to buy an assortment of goods was fascinating.

Speaking of Amazon, a promising new comedy pilot

Margaret Lyons in Vulture discusses the three comedy pilots Amazon recently released, even writing one is “my favorite pilot in years, and by a lot.”

Scroll down to the third pilot – “Transparent” – for the goods.

Twitter: @TMitrosilis Email: tmitrosilis@gmail.com

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