Free: Fun, Funky Professional Images and Curated Color Palettes

Designer, artist, and photographer Ryan McGuire creates fun, free, and sometimes downright funky photographs, as well as an array of color palettes based on art masterpieces. I like to use his photos on my website, in articles, and on social media posts, and I'll dip into those color palettes, broken down into hex codes, for websites I manage. Cool stuff. 

Below is a look at some of his photos and color palettes.

Gratisography: Photos by Ryan McGuire

From serious to funky, here's a sampling of Ryan McGuire's photos. As he has graciously put them in the public domain, they are yours to steal (as a courtesy to the artist, please credit Ryan McGuire for any images you use.)

Color Lisa: Color Palettes Based on Art Masterpieces

Color Lisa is a curated list of color palettes based on masterpieces of the world's greatest artists. Each palette has been painstakingly created by color-obsessed designers, artists, museum curators, and masters of color theory. Below are a few to feed your eyes (they're larger and easier to view on the Color Lisa website). 

Left to Right: The Kiss by Gustav Klimt; A Basket of Clams by Winslow Homer; Black King Catch Scorpio by Jean-Michel Basquiat; and Pink Panther by Jeff Koons

Ryan McGuire's free photos: Gratisography

Color Palettes: Color Lisa

Real-Life Nicks & Noras: What It's Like to Be Married Sleuths

My article about being a real-world Nora Charles (the wife-sleuth in Nick & Nora) is live at mystery writer Marilyn Meredith's blog.

Below is an excerpt with a link to the full article at the end. At the end of the article, I offer additional resources about real-life married PI teams, as well as a link to Pursuit Magazine, a free online magazine for professional private investigators that is managed by a real-life husband-and-wife team—handy info for writers crafting sleuth tales and characters!

Nicks & Noras in the Real World: The Thin and the Thick of It

by Colleen Collins

Shaun and Colleen: Husband-and-Wife PI Team (image is copyrighted)

Most of you know about Nick and Nora Charles, the husband and wife private detective team in Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. William Powell and Myrna Loy played Nick and Nora in the 1934 movie of the same name, the first in the popular six-film series. While wise-cracking, canoodling, and imbibing martinis, they also managed to solve a murder or two.

1934 The Thin Man poster (in public domain)

1934 The Thin Man poster (in public domain)

Before my husband returned to being a criminal lawyer, we worked together for over a decade as a real-life private eye team. Even today we sometimes still work cases together for his law practice.

As much as I like to think we held our own in the Nick-and-Nora wise-cracking department, only one of us drank martinis, and we never solved a murder, although we investigated and solved a few attempted murder cases. However, just as Nick and Nora had their terrier Asta, we worked cases with our Rottweiler Aretha, who has sat on innumerable surveillances, helped serve legal papers, and once climbed part way up a mountain where we investigated the scene of a “ski” crime.

HOLLYWOOD VS. REAL-LIFE: GLITZ VS. GRUNGE

Hollywood movies often show the sparkling highlights of a case, whereas the day-to-day digging for evidence can be a grind, sometimes with no viable clues surfacing for weeks at a time. And the film version of surveillances is fiction at its finest—it’s rare that a sleuth-mobile can follow a subject’s vehicle for hours on end. Yours truly has been a PI since 2003, and only once did I successfully follow a subject’s vehicle for hours...and I credit that singular success to the subject not being the brightest mental-bulb on the planet.

Pros and Cons of Being a Married PI Team

For the most part, both my husband and I found sleuthing together to be fun. We had our tense moments, but we enjoy each other’s company and like to make each other laugh, plus there’s nothing like the thrill of cracking a case.

DIFFERING WORK STYLES: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE ARE YOU CRAZY?

My husband and I fit the “opposites who attract” category. He’s a big-picture person, I focus on the details. He can wing it on little data, I like to be overly prepared. Our strengths can work amazingly well together; other times, we can drive each other more than a little nuts.

Here’s one example of how our traits mesh well...

Click here to read entire article

 

This article is copyrighted by Colleen Collins—if you wish to re-post or use elsewhere, please contact the author. Also, do not copy, distribute, or otherwise use any images noted as copyrighted or licensed. Images in the public domain are free to use.


Book Cover How Do Private Eyes Do That? by Colleen Collins (image is copyrighted)

Book Cover How Do Private Eyes Do That? by Colleen Collins (image is copyrighted)

June 2016 release: How Do Private Eyes Do That? (2nd edition)

"If you're looking for the lowdown on private investigations, this is it."

~Bill Crider, author of the Truman Smith mystery series


Six Research Tips for Writing a Private Detective Character

Online resources, books & conferences can aid a writer's understanding of real-life P.I.s (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Online resources, books & conferences can aid a writer's understanding of real-life P.I.s (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

I recently wrote a series of romantic-mysteries—The Next Right Thing, Sleepless in Las Vegas, and Hearts in Vegaswhich featured private eye heroes and heroines. Because I am also a private investigator in real life, I didn’t have to research their investigative careers all that much. But even if I weren't a P.I. there are ways I could have learned some basic techniques and tools of the trade to help me write a realistic private eye or sleuth character. (I originally wrote this article in September 2014, and updated with new resources & links on March 31, 2016.)

Six Research Tips For Learning about PIs

Tip #1: Read books on investigations. There are hundreds of books on topics, from background investigations to identity theft to personal injury investigations. One resource for investigative books is PIstore.com.  My husband and I, when we ran a private investigations agency for a decade, also wrote a nonfiction book for writers, How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths, which includes presentations we gave at writers' conferences, Q&As with writers, a gumshoe glossary and much more.

Tip #2: Review online magazines. There are free, online magazines that outline investigative techniques, resources and tools, such as Pursuit Magazine (my personal favorite), IQ Magazine (specializes in corporate fraud and white-color crime)and Evidence Technology Magazine.

Tip #3: Research investigation websites and blogs. Numerous private detectives write about investigative practices and case studies on their websites and blogs. For example, my private investigator-attorney husband and I co-author Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, which has articles geared to writers as well as researchers and investigators. Other PI blogs include PI BuzzPrivate Eye Confidential, and Diligentia Group. Also, check out The Art of Manliness site interview with a P.I. as part of its ongoing series "So You Want My Job" -- read it here: "So You Want My Job: Private Investigator"


Tip #4: Attend a PI conference. Some professional PI organizations sponsor conferences that are open to the public. Here you can network with other PIs, attend seminars, visit vendor booths that sell surveillance and other types of investigative equipment as well as manuals (I still use a telephone-book-thick manual on investigating personal injury cases that cost me $125.00 and is worth every penny -- other manuals are typically much less). PI Magazine lists upcoming conferences on its online site.

Tip #5: Register for a PI course. There are numerous online classes and local workshops geared to those interested in becoming private investigators. These classes are typically open to the public and cover such topics as basic investigative tools and techniques, how to research public records, and the legalities of the profession. For example, Colorado private investigator Rick Johnson teaches a classroom course at The Private Investigators Academy of the Rockies. Topics include interview techniques, process services, as well as field exercises in surveillance. Pursuit Institute also offers a course, How to Become a Private Investigator, taught by experienced PIs. Contact your state professional private investigator association for additional recommendations to courses that offer training in private investigations (PI Magazine lists all U.S. organizations by state.)


Tip #6: Take a PI to Lunch. Many private investigators would be happy to answer a few questions about your private eye character or story over the phone, but if you’d like a longer question-and-answer session, consider inviting a P.I. to lunch. In the past, I've sometimes invited an expert, such as a fire fighter or a bailbonds person, to lunch to pick his/her brain on a specialization that I needed for a story. It’s a pleasant way to conduct an interview, it gives you an hour or more to ask questions, plus who doesn’t like a free lunch? If you need a referral to a local PI, contact your local state professional private investigator association.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content requires specific, written authority. Please do not copy, distribute, or otherwise use any images that are noted as copyright-protected or licensed.

A LAWYER'S PRIMER FOR WRITERS: The Steps Of A Trial - Part II

One of the best resource books I’ve found for writers.
— Lynn Chandler Willis, Winner 2013 Minotaur Books-Private Eye Writers of America Best First PI Novel

Last week, I started sharing sections of the chapter "The Steps of a Trial, From Jury Selection to Verdict" from A Lawyer's Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms, a nonfiction book I co-wrote with Shaun Kaufman, my husband and criminal defense lawyer. This chapter provides a high-level overview of the steps of a trial.

In Part I, we discussed some history of trials and provided a glossary of common trial terms. This week we continue with jury selection and opening arguments. Other chapters in A Lawyer's Primer for Writers go into more depth about topics such as jury experts, the players in the courtroom, trial preparation, criminal charges, the courtroom setting, and more.

Chapter 15: The Steps Of A Trial - Selecting a Jury and Opening Arguments

All Rights Reserved. Copyright Colleen Collins

1. Selecting a jury

Jury box, Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse, Cleveland, Ohio by Carol Highsmith (image is in the public domain)

Jury box, Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse, Cleveland, Ohio by Carol Highsmith (image is in the public domain)

The voir dire, or jury selection process, requires input from attorneys for both sides, as well as the judge.

The judge and attorneys, after being given limited information about each potential juror, ask the potential jurors questions, the goal being to eliminate those who might be biased toward one side or the other during the trial.

After questioning is over, the attorneys and judge meet privately to pick the jury for the trial. Some of the jurors are removed for cause, which means a juror has something in his/her past experience that may not allow them to be fair and impartial to both parties. Example of cause include if a juror personally knows one of the lawyers, or has been a victim of a crime similar to one being tried, or has a personal interest in the outcome of the case. Each side has an unlimited number of removals for cause.

Other potential jurors may be removed by peremptory strike, meaning each side can remove a certain number of jurors from the pool without giving a reason, although they cannot be eliminated based on race or gender. The number of preemptory strikes depends on the jurisdiction and type of crime. 

As an example, the following defines the number of strikes in federal trials:

  • Federal civil trial: Each side is allowed 3 peremptory strikes.
  • Federal criminal trial: The government’s prosecuting attorney gets 6 strikes and the defense attorney gets 10 strikes. In capital cases where the death penalty is considered, both sides get 20 strikes.
  • Federal misdemeanor trial (a minor crime punishable by a fine or less than a year in prison): Each side gets 3 strikes.

After all potential jurors have been removed via cause and preemptory strikes, the jury is selected, which is often referred to as the jury being empaneled. After the courtroom deputy clerk swears in the jurors, and the judge gives them initial instructions, the trial can begin.

There might also be one or more alternate jurors, who are selected in the same manner as regular jurors, and hear the evidence in a case along with the regular jurors, but they do not participate with the regular jurors when they decide the case unless called upon to replace a regular juror.

Note: Jury research has become more common, especially in high-profile trials, as attorneys retain professional jury experts to aid assessment of appropriate jurors. Chapter 14, Jury Experts, provides more information on this subject.

2. The lawyers present opening arguments

"The Jury" by John Morgan, 1861 (image is in the public domain)

"The Jury" by John Morgan, 1861 (image is in the public domain)

During opening arguments, each side tells the jurors about the case they will be hearing. Opening statements must be confined to facts that will be proven by evidence and cannot be argumentative.

Whichever party brought the case to court — the government in a criminal prosecution or the plaintiff in a civil case — is the first to give its opening statement. Either lawyer may choose not to present an opening statement, or may reserve to give it during the defense’s presentation of evidence.

In a criminal trial, the burden of proof rests with the government, which must prove beyond a reasonable doubt — meaning, the jurors must be solidly convinced, or have a moral certainty — that the defendant is guilty. 

In a civil trial, the plaintiff has the burden of proof, and in general must prove liability and damages by a preponderance, or a greater weight, of the evidence — meaning, there is evidence that is convincing in its probable truth or accuracy. The degree of proof required in a civil case is far less stringent than in a criminal case. 

Tip for Writers: An opening statement is supposed to only contain a preview of what the lawyers think the evidence will be. However, a clever lawyer might push the envelope to make his or her opening statement as dramatic and compelling as a closing argument. The most powerful opening statements are those that employ common human themes and fables — think tropes in storytelling — which provide a framework within which the evidence will be arranged. 


This ends Part II. The next post covers witnesses and evidence, closing arguments, the verdict, and additional online resources.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content, including images owned by Colleen Collins, requires specific, written authority. Please do not copy or distribute any images noted as licensed; any images noted as being in the public domain are yours to use.

Click on book cover to go to Amazon page

A LAWYER'S PRIMER FOR WRITERS: The Steps of a Trial - Part I

For the next few posts, I'll be sharing sections of the chapter "The Steps of a Trial, From Jury Selection to Verdict" from A Lawyer's Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms, a nonfiction book written by my husband, Shaun Kaufman, and myself. Since we co-owned a private investigations firm for over a decade, Shaun has returned to the practice of law, specializing in criminal defense, family law, and personal injury. I currently work as an investigator for Shaun Kaufman Law and several other law firms, as well as write fiction and nonfiction.

In this chapter we discuss a bit of trial history, common trial terms, and the following steps of a trial:

  • Selecting a jury
  • Opening arguments
  • Witnesses and evidence
  • Closing arguments
  • The verdict. 

For today, we'll touch on some history, then list common trial terms.

Chapter 15: The Steps of a Trial - Common Trial Terms

All Rights Reserved. Copyright Colleen Collins

Fig. 28. “Trial of a Sow and Pigs at Lavegny” from “The Book of Days,” 1863 (image is in the public domain)

Fig. 28. “Trial of a Sow and Pigs at Lavegny” from “The Book of Days,” 1863 (image is in the public domain)

Yes, figure 28 shows a pig, the defendant, in a trial. Throughout Europe, from the Middle Ages into the nineteenth century, animals could be tried in court for crimes, exactly the same as humans. The trials were conducted formally: Juries were selected, witnesses testified, evidence was admitted and so on. Lawyers were appointed, at tax-payers’ expense, to represent the animals. 

So kicks off our discussion on the formal steps of a trial, which like a story has a beginning, middle and end. 

Let’s begin with an alphabetical listing of common trial terms.

Common Trial Terms

Accessory: A person who knowingly and intentionally contributes to a criminal act (before or after the crime, but not necessarily during the commission of the crime). An accessory after the fact is someone who knows that a crime has occurred and helped to conceal it. 

Accomplice: A person who assists in, advises or encourages the commission of a crime

Acquittal: A finding by a judge or jury that a criminal defendant is not guilty of the charges brought by the government. An acquittal is not a declaration of the accused's innocence but rather it is a verdict based on the prosecution’s inability to prove the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A person may be acquitted of a crime but found civilly liable in a civil case regarding that same crime because civil cases have a lower burden of proof than criminal cases.

Admissible: A term that describes evidence that may be heard or seen by a jury and/or considered by a judge or a jury in civil and criminal cases.

Answer: The formal written statement by a defendant in response to a civil complaint. The answer establishes the grounds for defense.

Bench Trial: A trial without a jury, in which the judge alone weighs the facts to reach a decision.

Bench Warrant: An order issued by a judge for the arrest of a person.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: The standard required to convict a criminal defendant of a crime. The prosecution must prove the guilt so that there is no reasonable doubt to the jury that the defendant is guilty.

Burden of Proof: The level or quality of proof that a party needs to prove his or her case. In civil cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence, which means the plaintiff’s proof must outweigh the defendant’s at least slightly for the plaintiff to win — if the two sides are equal, the defendant wins. In criminal cases, the prosecution has the burden of proof, and must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for a guilty verdict.

Capital Offense: A crime punishable by death. 

Challenge: An objection, such as when an attorney objects at a hearing to the seating of a particular person on a civil or criminal jury.

Circumstantial Evidence: All evidence except for eyewitness testimony. One example is physical evidence, such as fingerprints, from which an inference can be drawn.

Closing Arguments (see also Opening Arguments): Also called closing statements, summation and summing up, which are the concluding statements by both parties at the end of a trial. A closing argument may not contain any new information and must refer to evidence already presented throughout the trial. Usually the plaintiff gives the first closing argument, and the defense is second. In some cases, a judge's presentation of the jury instruction is also known as summing up.

The only cases that can be won in the final argument are those that have not been previously lost. On the other hand a good case can be lost in those fatal, final moments.

The only cases that can be won in the final argument are those that have not been previously lost. On the other hand a good case can be lost in those fatal, final moments.
— Gerry Spence, renowned defense lawyer, on closing arguments

 

Contempt of Court: Willful disobedience of a judge's command or of an official court order. A person who is in contempt of court can be fined or jailed. 

Conviction: The result of a criminal trial which ends in a judgment or sentence wherein the prisoner is guilty as charged. 

Corroborating Evidence: Supplementary evidence that strengthens or confirms the initial evidence.

Counsel (also called counselor): A term that refers to the lawyers in a case. Counsel is often used as a plural; counselor as singular.

Pitkin County Courthouse, Aspen, CO, photo by Carol Highsmith (image is in the public domain)

Pitkin County Courthouse, Aspen, CO, photo by Carol Highsmith (image is in the public domain)

Court: A state or federal entity authorized to resolve legal disputes. Also, judges often refer to themselves in the third person as the “court.”

Cross-Examination: The questioning of a witness by the other side. 

Direct Evidence: Proof of facts by witnesses who saw acts done or heard words spoken.

Direct Examination: The first questioning of witnesses by the party on whose behalf they are called.

Exhibit: A document, photograph or object introduced as evidence during a trial.

Expert Witness (also referred to as professional witness or judicial expert; see also Non-Testifying Expert). Someone who has the knowledge, training, skills or educational background to present their opinion about evidence or a fact in a legal case.

Hearsay: Statements by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else. Hearsay is usually not admissible as evidence in court.

Hostile Witness: A witness whose testimony is not favorable to the party who calls him or her as a witness. 

Hung Jury: A jury whose members cannot agree on a verdict.

Impeachment of a Witness: An attack, via evidence, on the believability of a witness.

Inadmissible: That which, under the rules of evidence, cannot be admitted or received as evidence. Inadmissible evidence cannot be considered by a judge or jury in considering their verdict. 

Judgment: The final disposition of a lawsuit. 

- Consent Judgment occurs when the provisions and terms of the judgment are agreed on by the parties and submitted to the court for its sanction and approval.

- Default Judgment is a judgment rendered because of the defendant's failure to answer or appear.

Jury Instructions: Rules that the judge reads aloud to the jury before their deliberations begin. These instructions explain the law that applies to the case the jurors have just heard, and their role in deciding the facts of the case.

First woman jury, 1911, Los Angeles (image is in the public domain)

First woman jury, 1911, Los Angeles (image is in the public domain)

Leading Question: A question suggesting the answer that the questioner — the defense lawyer or prosector — desires of the witness. A party generally may not ask one's own witness leading questions. However, leading questions may be asked of hostile witnesses on cross-examination.

Mistrial: When a judge throws out a verdict. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start all over again, beginning with jury selection.

Motion: A formal request, either verbal or in writing, made to the court. If a motion is in writing and filed with the court, a hearing is typically scheduled to review the motion. In general, motions may be filed at any time before, during or after trial, although in a civil case motions are only allowed at certain phases in the case. Below are several types of motions:

- Motion in limine: A request to the judge to prevent certain pieces of evidence from being brought up during the trial. These requests are typically made when the jury isn’t present, often before the jury pool is even brought into the courtroom, so that jurors are not influenced by evidence that is improper or irrelevant. The phrase in limine is Latin for at the threshold, so a motion in limine symbolizes the stopping of certain evidence at the door of the courtroom before it gets inside and infects the case.

- Motion to compel: A request that the court order a party to a court case or a third person to do something, such as produce documentation or other evidence, or it might be a request to sanction the other side for failing to do something. Motions to compel are frequently used to settle disputes that arise during discovery, such as when one side refuses to turn over documents. Motions to compel must include a promise that the person or attorney previously made a good-faith attempt to resolve the problem before asking the court to intervene.

- Motion to dismiss: A legal document that requests the court to throw out a case, typically filed by the defendantafter the plaintiff has filed a complaint.

Non-Testifying Expert (see also Expert Witness): Either side in a case can hire an expert whose role is to help the attorney evaluate something in the case. For example, a plaintiff in a civil case might hire an electrician to test if the electrical wiring in a vehicle was faulty. This type of expert is protected from discovery (unlike an expert witness whose identity and documents are discoverable).

Opening Arguments (see also Closing Arguments): Also called opening statements, which are the introductory statements made at the beginning of a trial by each side. It offers a summary of the case to the jury, including case facts and legal theories, as well as the anticipated proof that will be presented throughout the course of the trial.  Some studies claim that 80 percent of jurors' verdicts are based on the opinions they form after hearing opening arguments. 

Overrule: A judge's decision not to allow an objection. Also, a decision by a higher court in finding that a lower court decision was in error.

Parole: Serving the remainder of one’s sentence outside of prison under the supervision of a government agency. 

Preponderance of the Evidence: Greater weight of the evidence, the common standard of proof in civil cases.

Probable Cause: Guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, probable cause is the standard used by a police officer to make an arrest, obtain a warrant or conduct a search.

Probation Officer: The court-appointed officer who supervises criminals on probation.

Relevance: Testimony and evidence presented at trial must be relevant to the case.

Restitution: A monetary payment ordered as part of a judgment in negligence and/or contract cases to restore a loss. In criminal cases, it may be one of the penalties imposed and may require return of stolen goods to the victim or payment to the victim for harm caused. Restitution is often a condition of probation or a reduced sentence.

Sentence (see also Suspended Sentence): All fines, community service, restitution or other punishment, or terms of probation, given to a person convicted of a crime. The sentence, based on the jury’s verdict (or the judge's verdict if there was no jury), is ordered by the judge. Often, the term is used more loosely to mean jail or prison time, as in “He’s serving a ten-year sentence in federal prison.”

Summing up: See Closing Arguments.

Suspended Sentence (see also Sentence): After a judge issues a sentence at the conclusion of a case, he/she may then make it a suspended sentence, which means the punishment is delayed as long as the defendant fulfills certain conditions, such as community service or attending a substance abuse program. Judges often enter suspended sentences if they believe a defendant has a high potential to be a productive citizen. However, if a defendant violates the terms of a suspended sentence, the judge can impose that the original sentence, such as incarceration, be fulfilled.

Verdict: The jury’s formal decision after a trial. Although most verdicts are upheld by the judge presiding at the trial, the judge also has the discretion to set aside a verdict under certain circumstances. Also, the number of jury votes required to render a verdict differ for criminal and civil cases.

Verdict Form: Question-and-answer forms, often in paper format, designed to aid jurors in reaching a verdict after a civil or criminal trial. These forms are not the same as jury instructions, but instead are guidelines to help the jury determine if legal standards have been met by the facts in the case. 

Each side in a case creates its own verdict form, tailored to its precise case details, and then submits these forms to the judge before trial. Because lawyers write verdict forms with maximum benefits to their side of the case, the judge will meet privately with both sides to combine their forms into the final verdict form that the jurors will actually use. Therefore, the final verdict form a jury receives is typically the result of compromise from both sides.

Voir Dire (which means to speak the truth). The jury selection process.

Witness List: A list of witnesses a party expects to call to testify at trial. Each party must submit a witness list to the other side. Witnesses might be someone who observed a crime, who worked for a business that is part of the trial, a friend or family member of the defendant or plaintiff, or a police officer.


Next post will be about selecting a jury and opening arguments.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content, including images owned by Colleen Collins, requires specific, written authority. Please do not copy or distribute any images noted as licensed; any images noted as being in the public domain are yours to use.

Click on book cover to go to Amazon page

No Need to Give Out Your Home Address — Mask It Instead

Today I went to get new glasses, and the receptionist asked me to first fill out a form that requested personal information such as my home phone number, cell phone number, email address, and home address. I have a general phone number I give out to businesses, but I reserve my personal cell phone number for family, trusted contacts, and friends. Same with email addresses (I use an alternate email address for business & reserve my personal one for family & others). And only in rare instances do I give out my home address; instead, I give out our business POB address or my husband's law office address.

Protect Your Home Address

Your home is your castle — protect it by using an alternate address (image is licensed by Colleen Collins)

Your home is your castle — protect it by using an alternate address (image is licensed by Colleen Collins)

Your home is the center of your family life. Outside of a government agency or a trusted business, you don't need to give your private home address to someone just because they ask for it. You don't need to give it to stores or other businesses, either, especially if they have no reason for your home address (such as they are not delivering something to your home). But even if you need an item to be delivered, you can offer a masked address, meaning an address that isn't your real address but is associated to it. For example, let's say a masked address is1234 Maple Drive. Anything mailed to 1234 Maple Drive is actually delivered to your real home address. 

Purchasing A Street Address

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and some private mailbox companies let you use their street address, and your mailbox number is the suite number.

Post Offices

You can purchase a mailbox at a USPS for an annual fee. Inquire if it also uses the street addressing service — if yes, they will ask you to fill out a street addressing form.

Vintage USPS post office boxes — today boxes open with keys (image is in the public domain)

Vintage USPS post office boxes — today boxes open with keys (image is in the public domain)

Advantages of using this street-addressing option is that USPS post office boxes are typically less expensive than private mailbox services. Post offices also tend to be more permanent than private mail box services, which might move locations or go out of business, and post offices will also receive packages delivered by private carriers such as UPS and FedEx. Additionally, some post offices offer a “text to cell phone” message at no extra charge when a private-carrier shipment is received. However, not all post offices participate in the street-addressing program.

Disadvantages of using your post office box street-addressing service is that items must qualify for mail delivery (no shipments of alcohol, items over 70 pounds and other restrictions). 

Private Mailbox Services

Most private mailbox services offer a street address and secure, 24-hour access to delivered mail and packages. They often have additional fee-based services such as mail forwarding and alerts, usually by text or email, when a package has arrived.

Examples of private mailbox services:

The UPS Store - Personal Mailboxes

PAKMAIL

PostNet

Virtual Mailbox Services

A virtual mailbox service sells you a street address. Incoming envelopes sent to this address are scanned into an electronic format, such as pdf, by the virtual mailbox service, which then sends the images to you via email or another electronic venue for your review. You then decide which envelopes are to be opened, and the service scans those contents and sends them.

With a virtual mailbox service, you can be anywhere in the world and still receive your mail. A big problem, however, would be if the service goes out of business suddenly, like overnight (which happened to one such service while I was researching this article). Also virtual mailbox services can get pricey — some cost $60 or more a month.

Examples of virtual mailbox services:

virtualpostmail

Earth Class Mail

Box 4 me

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins) requires specific, written authority. Please do not copy or distribute any images noted as licensed; any images noted as being in the public domain are yours to use.

Elliott Gould, Robert Altman, and Vilmos Zsigmond: THE LONG GOODBYE (1973)

Opening footage: The Long Goodbye, via YouTube.

It was reported today that Vilmos Zsigmond, the American-Hungarian cinematographer who filmed Altman's The Long Goodbye, has died. Zsigmond filmed other classic movies such as Deliverance, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, McCabe & Mrs. Miller (with Altman directing), and The Sugarland Express.

Who can forget those eerie, compelling scenes of the extraterrestrials in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Zsigmond deliberately overexposed those scenes so the aliens would appear fuzzy and diffuse. Yet, according to Zsigmond, he nearly got fired during the filming of that movie.

We had a terrible situation on ‘Close Encounters’ because they wanted to fire me several times. The only reason they didn’t was because they didn’t have a replacement who could take over.
— Vilmos Zsigmond

Vilmos Zsigmond on Filming The Long Goodbye

Zsigmond said The Long Goodbye was the funniest comedy he ever filmed, due to Elliot Gould's characterization of Philip Marlowe.

Elliot Gould was never better than in [“The Long Goodbye”]. He plays this private eye who looks really dumb but he’s not dumb.
— Vilmos Zsigmond

In a Rolling Stone interview, Zsigmond said "a cinematographer can only be as good as the director." However, he initially worried about the always-moving camera that Altman wanted and thought the constant motion would be too obtrusive for the audience. At some point, Zsigmond later said, he forgot all about the moving camera as it evolved into the storytelling, just as Robert Altman had envisioned. (More about Altman's reason for an always-moving camera in the below section Robert Altman, Director.)

Zsigmond also used experimental exposure techniques (also called flashing) in The Long Goodbye to give Los Angeles a faded look to match Altman's vision of the city looking like "old postcards." 

Below is the first draft of this article that I wrote last August. It has since been updated with additional material about The Long Goodbye.

Today, August 29, is Elliott Gould's birthday...

So I watched the opening credits to director Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye starring Gould as Philip Marlowe (click on YouTube video at the top of this post). In the scene, Marlowe is trying to feed his cat, which becomes a complicated, bumbling affair. As noted by Marlowe fans, he never had a cat, but apparently Raymond Chandler loved cats, so Altman put one in. Later, Gould said one of the points of the film was that friends could be as fickle as cats.

Raymond Chandler began playing with the Marlowe character in short stories in such pulp magazines as Black Mask and Detective Fiction Weekly long before he penned his first novel The Big Sleep. In those earlier stories, Chandler tested different names for this private eye character, such as Mallory and John Dalmas, finally settling on Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep.

Chandler eventually wrote eight Marlowe novels, dying before finishing the ninth, Poodle Springs, which was later finished by Robert B. Parker. Most of the these novels have been adapted for TV and film, with an impressive list of actors playing Marlowe, such as Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell, James Garner, Robert Mitchum, Powers Boothe, Danny Glover, and of course Elliott Gould.

As I look back on my own stories it would be absurd if I did not wish they had been better. But if they had been much better they would not have been published.
— Raymond Chandler

Some say The Long Goodbye doesn't hold up to Chandler's The Big Sleep or Farewell My Lovely. Others say it's Chandler's best work. Some say Gould isn't as cool as Bogie or as world-weary as Mitchum. Others say Gould is the only actor to have captured the essence of Marlowe.

Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe

In the opening segment, Gould shows us a bumbling, wise-cracking, conscientious, chain-smoking Marlowe. The camera roves and wanders as it follows Marlowe, who meanders and drifts as he looks for cat food, talks to his cat, talks to the ladies next door, drives to find food for both the cat and the ladies. Gould's Marlowe is vulnerable, sweet even, yet cynical. Dressed in his crumpled suit (he puts on his jacket to drive to the store at 3 a.m.), he's a throwback to a more conventional era in the pot-smoking, freer world of the 1970s. 

In a 2000 interview, Elliott Gould said he had "fallen out of grace in the industry, was basically un-castable" when Robert Altman offered him the role of Marlowe. 

Interesting fact: Marlowe's car in the film was actually Gould's (a 1948 Lincoln Continental, very Marlowe-esque). 

Another interesting fact about Gould: He's recorded every Marlowe story on audiotape.

Robert Altman, Director

Peter Bogdanovich was originally supposed to direct The Long Goodbye, and he wanted either Lee Marvin or Robert Mitchum to play Marlowe. He didn't want Gould to play the role because he was "too new." After Bogdanovich was off the project, Robert Altman was on.

When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.
— Raymond Chandler

According to the 2009 article "Rip van Marlowe: Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye," Altman initially didn't want to direct the film, feeling that Marlowe had already been done and everybody connected Bogie with the role of Marlowe. But after it was suggested that Elliott Gould play Marlowe, Altman was in. When Gould said he didn't know if he could play Marlowe, Altman said he could because he was Marlowe.

He decided the camera would always be moving (as seen in the opening credits), giving the audience the feeling of being a voyeur who's always looking over somebody's shoulder or peering around someone's back. "The rougher it looked, the better it suited my purpose," Altman said. The article "The Long Goodbye" by Noel Murray quotes Altman saying that the premise of the film was Marlowe falling asleep in Chandler's era and waking up in the weird wonderland of California in the early 1970s.

The film wasn't well received at first, but all these years later it's become something of a cult classic. Many credit Altman's film as being truer to the mood established by Chandler in the book. 

Interesting fact: Leigh Brackett, who wrote this script, was also the scriptwriter for The Big Sleep, directed by the iconic director Howard Hawks (final scene via YouTube, below).  On that note, I'll now finish my coffee and get to work...but first, I have to feed my cat.

Final scene from The Big Sleep, via YouTube