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Archive for May, 2009

Good News about Downward Mobility

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

images-12This recession is still getting heavy play in the media, but in addition to the terrifying doomsday stories that keep us all on heightened anxiety alert (“ie: The gap between the rich and the poor will continue to widen…It’s one the worst recessions in our country’s history…13 million people are facing unemployment…more than 30 million people are relying on food stamps…. ”), a few stories about the upsides are starting to get some real attention. In fact the goddess of goodness herself (Oprah, who Cemetery Mary has long since forgiven for not taking her seat at my funeral) just did a whole show about folks who’ve dropped a few notches in social classes due to some severe financial set backs. And do you know what? Instead of turning into bitter nuts, they are surviving AND becoming, in the process, more compassionate, empathic humans.

Imagine that.

Turning crap into compost is what we do people.

images3It appears that formerly successful white collar workers once belonging to the upper-middle-class now stand in line at the unemployment office and realize for the first time that the unemployed are not a heap of unmotivated, uneducated or lazy losers. Because many freewheeling spenders have been forced to downsize, they have also learned that it is possible to be just as happy with less money. They have refocused their energy on family, friends and their life’s passion.

And speaking of continuing to follow one’s heart, today’s SF Chronicle reprinted the journalist Barbara Ehrenreich’s commencement address to UC Berkeley Journalism graduates in which she talks about how she’s had to recommit to her passion for telling the story that needs to be told despite the long hours and lousy pay. She informs the graduates that they are trying to carve out a career in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. “You are furthermore going to be trying to do so within what appears to be a dying industry.”

images-3Ehrenreich goes on to ask the students how they think it feels to be an autoworker right now? Or a laidoff paper mill worker, construction worker, or miner? “So let me be the first to say this to you: Welcome to the American working class.”

Ehrenreich’s students and Oprah’s guests all seem to embrace the economic challenges with a feisty compassion for focusing on what’s important. Though Ehrenreich was directing her comments to a group of journalists, her message is resonant with all workers of all social classes who are forced to accept the new reality of this job market.

“As long as there is a story to be told, an injustice to be exposed, a mystery to be solved, we will find a way to do it. A recession won’t stop us. A dying industry won’t stop us. Even poverty won’t stop us because we are all on a mission here.”

That’s right, what’s the point of whining and worrying when there are so many missions to be accomplished?

What is your mission?images-4

Do something to move it forward today.

 

What does online dating have to do new homes and hormones?

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Well, I’ll tell you. Having BOLDLY (after a few panic attacks) launched an online dating campaign for that next certain someone, I was doing the requisite online background check of a potential suitor and stumbled across some work he was doing for Habitat for Humanity. Honesty, Cemetery Mary has been so inundated with tragic stories of home foreclosures and tanking sales prices, she didn’t know that anything happy at all was occuring in the housing market. But how about this folks: Habitat built twenty homes in four days last month in the East Bay–making twenty families very happy. Please watch their spirited YouTube — all seven minutes — to remind yourself that things could not possibly be falling apart when people and communities come together in service. images2And though this potential love squeeze is not in this video, knowing he is building these home for people–what do you think ladies? Should I put the spell on him? Or is it too late–has all his do-gooding landed the spell on me? Something about all those tool belts and smiling faces has a effervescent effect on my hormone house. Click below to find out what they are up to. Really…  Check it out! 


Nobodies are the New Somebodies

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

obamamichelle1At seminar last fall I heard Guy Kawasaki announce that we live in an era where “nobodies are the new somebodies.” With technology making expression easier and more accessible, we are seeing high school outcasts become Internet phenomenon’s and global corporations chase YouTube stars for product endorsements. Nowhere is there a better example of a bunch of nobody’s kicking creative booty than the U.C. Merced students who snagged Michelle Obama as the 2009 commencement speaker for their first graduating class.

U.C. Merced?

I work at U.C. Irvine, my daughter goes to UCLA, and despite this close contact with the system, I’d never noticed a U.C. Merced.

Precisely. But now?

Front page news.

Despite only four years in existence,  a group of imaginative students found a way to turn their campus–located in an area I’ve always found too hot to visit– into an overnight sensation. (Even though overnight sensations usually require years of hard work, creativity, Jupiter aligning with Mars, and Oprah. These guys did it without the latter.)

letter-writingIf you didn’t read the paper today (and if you are sensitive to gloom I support your news detox)…a group of U.C. Merced students launched a “Dear Michelle” letter writing campaign that charmed and moved Mrs. Obama enough for her to agree to make U.C. Merced the sweet spot for her first commencement address as first (African American) lady to the first class of undergraduate students to complete a full four-year course of study at the campus. The student-led initiative included a “We Believe” YouTube video, webelieve a Facebook campaign and more than 900 unique, hand written Valentine’s Day cards from the students, their friends, parents, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, and neighbors. The letters were delivered in one pretty heap to Michelle’s White House office, and the requests ranged from the pragmatic  (“please come, we need the publicity”) to the passionate ( YOU INSPIRE ME).

And hey, his wasn’t the first time the kids in Merced managed to win over powerful decision makers. Apparently it was not long ago that every Merced school child wrote a letter to the members of the U.C. Board of Regents urging them to locate the campus in their community. Apparently there is big power in uniting small voices of activism and optimism in order to make things happen. The university has quickly grown to more than 2,700 students, with the most diverse student body in the UC system.  More than half are first-generation college students, many from families whose incomes fall below the state poverty level.

I love when frontpage news leaves me choked up and inspired, instead of giving me anxiety and hives.

Lady Obama said, “There are few things more rewarding than young people who recognize that they have the power to make their dreams come true.” And despite Cemetery Mary making a big scene burying a dead dream last winter, we all know it was only to make room for something better to come along (how do you spell R-E-S-U-R-R-E-C-T-I-O-N?)

But these guys resurrected the excitement of possibility and new life without having the funeral. They are the newest campus in, well, kind of crappiest locale. Folks usually just stop there to gas up on the way to Yosemite. Turns out I was wrong. There’s a lot more to that little town than meets the naked eye. Thanks for lifting the spirits Merced.

Check out the scene here:

 

First Lady addresses UC Merced

First Lady addresses UC Merced

 

 

 

 

Increased memory loss got you worried?

Monday, May 11th, 2009

I wandered into the crowded living room in my brother’s swanky new coastal home where an Alzheimer’s doc was addressing the crowd, talking about steps we can take to reduce our risks of the disease. But listening was impossible because I was desperately trying to remember the name of a nice man sitting in the front row. I’d met him on countless occasions, talked to him recently, laughed at his jokes, made plans to meet his new fiancé, and traded phone numbers. What the hell was his name? Why does this happen to me so often? If forty-seven is too young for Alzheimers, did that Botox brow shot numb out my name retention section?

A few days earlier my friend Abeer said she was hanging out with some college buddies. One told a story about a wild dorm party and the third laughed saying, “That’s so funny. Where’d you go to college?”

The others stared at her dumbfounded. “With you,” they said.

OH. Yeah.

And that woman was only in her mid-thirties.

images-2So what’s up with our brains these day? After doing some research by watching this crazy scary video, I’ve decided it’s not memory loss at all. We are suffering from information overload combined with an insatiable addiction to get more data, more quickly, and more often. I’m always accessing email, voicemail, new music, google, newsfeeds, blogs, television, netflix, Facebook, Twitter…where does all this static go?

With the onslaught of data bombs heaved at us from every sector of technociety, some of the most basic brain information is getting vaporized.  Did you know there are five times more words in the English language now than there were in Shakespere’s time? Or that a week’s worth of content in The New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century? No wonder I find myself impatient when someone wants me to watch a Youtube that exceeds two minutes (like I keep expecting people to do with the links in this blog).

I don’t have that kind of time when there is SO MUCH MORE INFORMATION I MUST OBTAIN NOW.

But watch this, because it’s funny. And true. 

And it  just may remind you to relax a little bit.

Ridiculous Acts of Love, Joy, and Frivolity

Monday, May 11th, 2009

Random acts of kindness are useful. But extreme times call for extreme measures so today in The Compost Heap Hall of Fame Cemetery Mary celebrates those clever people who have stepped out on the limbs of insanity to perform acts that WAKE PEOPLE UP. We all need to be reminded that this life? She is ridiculous….

Pour yourself a drink and watch people come alive.

imagesDoes the Bodhisattva Know A Secret?

 

 

 

What’s the Easiest Way to Freak People Out?

images-11

 

 

 

How Does San Francisco React the Day the DOW plunged?

images1

 


Dad Gone Mad Rages Against the Meshugenah

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

bookcover_homeOn a visit to NYC last week, Cemetery Mary recently met her cool new literary agent. When I asked about some of said agents recent success stories, she handed me a review copy of a book called Rage Against the Meshugenah: Why It Takes Balls to Go Nuts, by Danny Evans, author also of the blog Dad Gone Mad.

But what’s Meshugenah, I asked? It’s the mad, crazy, and the mentally deranged.

Naturally, a gal who hangs around cemeteries, enjoys flamboyant funerals, and writes antidepressposts as a way of coping might just have a few issues that would make this book relevant. I opened it right after take-off on my flight home and was glued to the story until I reached the last page, just as the plane touched down in San Francisco.

Danny Evans writes about what its like for a man who presumably had it all to sink into an incapacitating clinical depression. And with a title like his, it will come as no surprise that the depressing depression story was punctuated with plenty of humor, as well as enough insight and hopefulness to warrant him a review in the Compost Heap Hall of Fame.

As a young man growing up in Simi Valley, Danny’s family wanted him to be a rabbi. Instead got a job writing ad copy, married his first love, Sharon, and figured when they had children they’d raise them “jewishly.”  Shortly after the birth of his first son, Danny was blindsided when he was suddenly laid-off and then four days later 9/11 occurred. With too much time on his hands, Danny became mesmerized by the media coverage of the attack and sank into complete despair for himself, his family, and humanity. (Like I said above, for those who are drawn to darkness, watching too much news is the quickest detour into full-scale mental illness.)

Making his way through many phases of recovery (beer, porn, unemployment, antidressants, talk-therapy, self-revelation, and eventually coaching a Little League baseball team), Danny came out the other side with his family intact.

Much of the story includes the amusing adventures of the writer’s penis, whether it was for pleasure (solo sex, porn sex, partner sex), pain (vasectomy), or priapisms (side effects of antidepressants), but we all know how proud and protective the fellas can be about their equipment. It comes as no shock that that even through major depressions boys will be boys, and even more so, men will be boys. But sometimes, as is demonstrated in this tale of woe, when this disease is faced with courage and honesty, men can also be men—which is where Danny Evans goes in the end, sucking it up to protect and provide for his “Hot Wife” and their two not-always-perfect wee ones. The good news is that he does this while also learning to express the parts of his personality he had buried years earlier when he thought he had to live life only to please others (something we girls/women know something about too).

hw_mainThe only thing missing in this powerful crap-into-compost tale is more insight into how this man’s sainted wife Sharon survived this period. Personally, I would’ve loved to see an epilogue from the “Hot Wife,” as she is affectionately referred. The narcissism of pain can drain the compassion out of the best of us, and even Danny wonders how he would have handled it if their roles were reversed. Would he have had the patience and stamina to stick by her? Sharon, what say you? I know love is a powerful healer, but on the days that love wasn’t exactly accessible, what prevented you from drop kicking his sulking, beer drinking, porn watching, and unemployed ass out the door?

Hmmm. I think I smell a sequel.

The story is raw, funny, painful, insightful, honest, and a little meshuganah. That, and the fact it kept me absorbed on a six-hour flight, makes it something to recommend. Note: It doesn’t hit the bookstores until August, but you can preorder it on Danny’s website, Dad Gone Mad. 

Why I Rage Against the Media

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

starbucks-ivTruthfully, Cemetery Mary is not that into raging, with or without drugs, but I’m always up for rebellion. So today I offer a rebellious game called “Attack the Medidiots” (that’s Media + Idiots if not obvious) and the object is to counteract the toxicity of our addictive daily news feeds, which seems intent on driving us all into deep depression, economically and otherwise, with nonstop need to terrify the general public.

I offer by way of example a recent Wall Street Journal story about Starbucks that I innocently read because one of my most beloved relatives spends her life doing PR for this gargantuan global coffee company.

Oh no! I thought, reading the article. Bad PR for Starbucks means a hard day for my cute relative, darnit! But then reading on, I got annoyed so annoyed…

The WSJ explained how coffee drink sales had dropped severely this quarter and how the company was going to launch a defensive advertising campaign to combat competitor insults, etc. etc….and because sales had dropped, and they were now making a quarterly net profit of only $25 million dollars …

Hey waitaminute…

TWENTY FIVE MILLION DOLLARS OF PROFIT IN THREE MONTHS? Total revenue is at $2.33 billion? Plus twenty more stores than last year? And this is worrisome why?

In my game, Attack the Medidiots, winners find ways to cut through the crap of the scary spin and find another truth that feels cheerful and motivating, instead of hopeless and terrifying

For example, Wall Street Journal, why not say:

STARBUCKS STAYS PROFITABLE IN GLOBAL RECESSION.

See how easy it is to play?

I MEAN REALLY, finding a downside to a story about profits during a recession is like grousing because last year we were running marathons when this year we’re just cheerfully walking around the block, healthy, while so many others have cancer, diabetes, or the swine flu. 

And speaking of The Flu Formerly Known as Swine, this H1N1 flu shows the Medidiots at their most ridiculous, no? News of its travel across globe is announced with the frequency of rush hour traffic reports, there are pictures of people in facemasks, and pigs may never recover from the hit on their reputations.

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Then we learn that 36,000 a year die of just the regular flu?

Here’s the question of the day: Should this make us freak out LESS about The Flu Formerly Known as Swine, or do we need to freak out MORE about generic influenza?

Maybe it’s all a clever marketing scheme concocted by the makers of Purcell? I have no relatives who do PR for that lucky company, so you tell me.