Thursday, November 13, 2014

Writers Guild of America West showcases screenwriters at “Behind the Screen 2014”

The Writers Guild of America West put on yet another well-attended and jovial reception for the screenwriters of several current and soon-to-be-released films last night at the Capital Grille at the Beverly Center.  Etopia News was there and had a chance to meet and briefly chat with a few of them about their work.

Christina Welsh, who adapted “Addicted,” about a woman whose sexual addiction threatens to overturn her seemingly-perfect life, said she hoped the film would help reduce the stigma associated with being female and a sex addict, adding that many “don’t take it seriously,” and pointing out that women find it hard to admit to suffering from this condition.  She said she wanted the film to “break the stereotype.”  She doesn’t usually do adaptations, and enjoyed the process of doing this one.

Aimee Lagos, who wrote “No Good Deed,” a thriller about an escaped convict and the woman who makes the mistake of helping him, was adamant about the need for more diversity in the screenwriting profession and talked hopefully about creating a database that would make it possible for decision-makers in Hollywood to more easily find screenwriting talent that wasn’t white, male, and heterosexual.

Larry Karaszewski, co-screenwriter, along with Scott Alexander, of “Big Eyes,” , a bio-pic about Margaret and Walter Keane and the creation and attribution of the eponymous paintings, talked about meeting and convincing Margaret to share her story with the writers in 2003, thereby enabling the 11-years-long production of the film, which was directed by Tim Burton.  Amy Adams stars as Margaret Keane, and Christoph Waltz as Walter.

It also took eleven years for Margaret Nagle, screenwriter of “The Good Lie,” about the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” to get her film made.  She criticized Warner Brothers, the distributor of the film, for their lack of energy in promoting it.  The film will be available on iTunes starting on December 9th. 

Also in attendance was E. Max Frye, co-screen writer (with Dan Futterman) of “Foxcatcher” a biographical drama about the wrestling world staring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo, out now and prominently on display in a big billboard at the corner of Sunset and La Cienega Boulevards, up the road a bit from the Capital Grille and the Beverly Center.

Etopia News was not the only media entity there.  Kelley Bruggere, Host-Writer at Android TV; Ken Choy, from Wide Lantern; Angela Dawson, Editor of Front Row Features; Jennifer Buonantony from PressPassLA; and Akshara Sekar from the University of Southern California’s Daily Trojan were all there to cover the event and interview the screenwriters.

WGAW Communications Specialist Gregg Mitchell was there, too, facilitating all this coverage.

View photos from this event here.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

An admiring review of the Microsoft Lumia 635

I’ve been using a Microsoft Lumia 635 smartphone since I got one as a review unit on September 26, 2014.  I had never owned a smartphone before, so almost everything about this device was new to me.  With significant input from a friendly and helpful AT&T tech support person, I was able to set up and configure the basic functionality of the system, and, on my own since then, with some additional help from tech support, I’ve discovered more and more features that make my life easier, more productive, and more fun.

Now I use the quiet hours function in Cortana to block any calls or texts while I’m asleep.  I don’t even have to ask Cortana anything when I first log in in the morning.  She provides weather and news on her own initiative.  I can also ask her, “What’s the news?” and she’ll display links and teasers for three breaking news stories and read me the headlines.  She can easily give me the temperature and forecasts for the next week’s weather. 

Right now, she’s playing “Take me to Church,” by Hozier.  It doesn’t sound like a concert hall, but it’s nice music selected randomly somehow for me and I like it.

Maybe it’s already commonplace for billions of people, but I really appreciate the capability that the Lumia 635 gives me to take a photo and send it directly to someone or post it to Facebook.  I can do that with videos, too.

The phone in the Lumia has revolutionized the way I relate to others on the phone.  I used to have to hold the handset of the stationary phone in my home office, which was very encumbering.  Now, I set the Lumia down on the desk and turn on the Speaker function and I can operate hands-free and speak into the air as though the other party were there in the room with me.  I get much better results (up to a point) when I can relate to others telephonically from the attitude of comfort and control engendered by my use of the Lumia 635.

I now know how to enter new contacts into the phone without calling them first, just by using the Save function on the phone’s virtual keypad.  I can send and receive e-mails, and easily attach photos I’ve taken to the out-going ones.  The screen miniaturizes and whisks e-mails off into the aether at the top of the screen.  It also “dumps” deleted e-mails to the bottom of the screen.

Then there’s the voice-to-text transcription function in Cortana, that lets me send texts by dictating them, and to dictate my e-mail contents by voice and have it entered into the system by Cortana as almost-flawlessly transcribed text.  If I want to enter text by hand (by finger, really), it offers usually helpful suggested next words that need only be touched to appear in the text stream.

So now I have a device that conveniently fits in my pocket and lets me take and upload photos and videos of my surroundings and the people I meet, lets me communicate by voice with anyone on the planet, keeps me informed about the weather and news, plays music on command, reminds me of appointments, holds my calls, handles e-mails, and does it all cheerily.  What’s not to like?

I’d recommend the Microsoft Lumia 635 to anyone who’d also like to enjoy these capabilities.

And I can’t wait to get my hands on Cortana’s big brother, Skype Translator, which harnesses Cortana’s speech-to-text and text-to-speech capabilities along with Bing Translator to enable cross-language speech in real-time.

Meanwhile, not many people have “liked” the Cortana Users Group Facebook page, at:

or, for that matter, the Skype Translator Users Group, at: