Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Classified presidential document do’s and don’ts

President Joe Biden (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

It’s obvious to this Southern woman some of y’all in the Oval Office don’t know what a burn barrel is, and it shows. Every Southerner knows that’s where you put all the stuff you don’t need anymore (like, say, a classified document) and you don’t necessarily want anyone else to find it. Do it at night with a couple of oil-soaked rags, drop in a match and…problem solved.

I imagine Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter had burn barrels installed right there in the rose garden for just such a purpose. Although he wasn’t technically a Southerner, George W. frequently escaped to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, to “burn brush.” Wonder if there were some docs that didn’t need to see the light of day. Hmmm?

Learning all the places highly classified documents in Biden’s care have shown up—think-tank closets, garages — is like reading a Nancy Drew mystery. Will Nancy and her chums find a list of key U.S. “assets” in the basement of Scranton’s famed Houdini Museum? Now you see them, now you don’t!

We the people are this close to learning the nuclear launch codes have been folded into a matchbook-size square to remedy the wobbly kitchen table at Biden’s beach house.

In Biden’s case, the classified documents that keep popping up like yard onions seem to be more a matter of poor housekeeping than in Trump’s case, where he deliberately took them to Florida, made sure they stayed hidden and only handed them over after being forced to by Department of Justice subpoenas. I tend not to believe Trump who always seems one more bankruptcy away from standing on a street corner offering to guess your weight for a quarter.

This is not to say Biden’s current document drama isn’t bad; it is. The carelessness reminds me of the discovery of several vials of active smallpox virus at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., in 2014.

The vials had been tossed into a CARDBOARD BOX and stashed in a closet where they were discovered decades later. The NIH and FDA apologized for the oversight but let’s be clear here. This wasn’t just some dust bunnies on the baseboards. This was smallpox! A disease we had eradicated but, if spread today would…still not be vaccinated against by parents who won’t get their kids a measles vaccine because wackadoodle.

While some of the Biden classified docs were marked “secret” there were a few that were essentially labeled “Whoa, Nelly! Double-secret probation levels of classified!!!!”

The solution to the docu-drama is obvious: Hire Marie Kondo to oversee the organization of all classified documents in future administrations.

“Mr. President, does this top-secret analysis of our military plans, weapons and operations regarding Ukraine bring you joy?” she will ask as she sits in her accordion pleated skirt and cardigan set while perched on a couch that swallows her tiny self.

Similarly, she will hold up documents labeled “confidential” and “just plain secret” and will arrange “keep,” “toss” and “give away” boxes ensuring classified documents are safely stored or discarded.

The Republicans are spittin’ nails about the Biden docs so I think it would be great fun if Biden, like Trump, claimed the documents were no longer classified because he had “declassified them in my mind.” Sounds crazy now, doesn’t it?

House Republicans are at Level 10 on the hissy fit scale demanding to see “visitor logs” at Biden’s private residence. (There aren’t any and never have been because it’s a private residence and such logs aren’t required.) Perhaps they should remember Trump did away with the practice of public sharing of visitor logs at the White House citing national security.

I suspect it he was embarrassed by the frequent sign-ins from, you know, Voldemoort, Scar from the Lion King, Pennywise, the shark from “Jaws”… Just a guess.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write to her at [email protected].

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: What’s your diet lifestyle choice? Kidding, I don’t really care

I’ve been thinking a lot about ’23 and me. Not the DNA kit that reveals you once dated your half-brother “on accident.” The year 2023. Will this be the year I figure out the perfect diet, for instance?

I’m not talking about weight loss diets like when your grandma lived off Tab and Figurines. I’m talking about diet lifestyle choices. Maybe this is the year you become a “sustainatarian,” which sounds like where they used to put people with TB in olden days.

If I become a sustainatarian, which is, too, a real thing, I will be the darling of the dinner party! (“You see, it’s time we lowered our environmental impact via a diet of wholegrains, nuts and legumes…Wait! Where are you going? I wasn’t finished!”)

And while we’re on the subject, what are legumes? No one really knows but I’m pretty sure they’re those tiny fruit soda bottles made of wax that you can eat. You’re welcome.

Sustainatarians are the most noble of the very specific lifestyle diets from which to choose in 2023. If that mantle seems too heavy, perhaps you’re more of a “social omnivore,” a term I just learned about in the current issue of “Bon Appetit”, which I believe is French for “I’d Rather Be Smoking.”

Social omnivores don’t buy or eat meat at home, but they will eat it at a restaurant if invited to dinner or at a dinner party in someone else’s home. I believe the more familiar term for this diet lifestyle choice is “cheap butt.”

Seriously, social omnivores are trying not to be so rigid as to hurt feelings or cause dinner party hosts to cobble together a separate meal like they’re a picky toddler.

Perhaps you’re more of a “flexitarian” described as someone who is mostly a vegetarian but occasionally eats meat and fish. Unlike social omnivores, flexitarians occasionally pay for the meat and fish and consume it at home. They might even invite a few “meatatarians” over to demonstrate their open-mindedness. Meatatarians are folks who consume meat every day. Like me.

You could leave that meat mentality behind in ’23 in favor of becoming a “reduceatarian” which is someone who mindfully reduces the amount of meat and dairy consumed in a day. If you still don’t understand what that means, let me use it in a sentence: A social omnivore and a reduceatarian go to a bar. How long does it take before the reduceatarian realizes he has bought every round?

“Climatarians” consume no beef or lamb because of the environmental impact of corporate farms; “pescatarians” eat fish but not meat; and “vegans” don’t eat meat, fish, seafood, dairy or eggs but subsist entirely on a healthy and noble plant-based diet supplemented occasionally by thinly veiled disdain for everybody else. The “carnetarian” eats meat but not fish so I’m guessing the average age is 24 months. It will take a little longer before the “fish” is formed into the shape of a batter-breaded finger and soaked with ketchup in a school cafeteria.

I was having trouble finding the right lane—can’t be a meatatarian forever– until I learned about the “veggie-vore”—someone who isn’t a vegetarian and who does eat meat but tries to inflict as little suffering to animals and commit as little environmental harm as possible. Perfect!

I already buy grass-fed beef because I prefer to think my steak came from a cow that lived a lovely life roaming bucolic pastures in only the blue part of Texas, so, OK, the streets of Austin.  And I have bought cage-free and free-range eggs for years because I prefer eggs laid by a chatty bunch of hens who wear “Rose’ All Day” t-shirts and make fun of all the big rooster energy in the barnyard.

It’s possible I’ve overthought all this. So like a veggie-vore, am I right?

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write to her at [email protected].


Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Buccal up, y’all! It’s time for a new look

Everywhere I turn someone’s talking about buccal fat removal. Pronounced “buckle,” the cosmetic surgery removes cheek fat leaving you with gloriously defined cheekbones. I’m not sure, but I believe the popular procedure was invented by Republican Congressman George Santos of New York. Or at least that’s what he said.

I’ve never had cosmetic surgery (obviously) but that’s because I’m cheap, not because I have anything against it. How cheap, you ask? Well, one time I tried to “fix” my turkey neck by gathering the loose skin behind my ears and trying to hold it in place with electrical tape. What can I tell you? Class reunions will make you do crazy things.

Another time, I ordered the “Amazing Double Chin Removal Strap” from an ad in one of those magazines that pays the bills with ads for sketchy products like rare-ish coins that no one will know what to do with when you die (“What’s the Franklin “Ment”?”) or shower to walk-in tub conversions in an hour or a garage light so bright it could fry your retinas if you looked at it. In other words, a quality publication.

The double chin removal strap was advertised as being so comfortable and attractive you could “wear it all day, even to the grocery store!” Let’s just say I was a HUGE hit at the grocery store where a kind person in the produce aisle asked softly if I had been in an accident.

“No, no, I’m just trying to get rid of one of my chins,” I said. Unfortunately, Amazing Double Chin Removal Strap made this sound more like: “Moofa? Muffamoofa mingolola. Eye-bye!”

Loyal readers may recall my unfortunate experience with “Beauti-Brest” a contraption that was attached to the tub faucet on one end, which allowed high-pressured jets of water to shoot through a funnel attached to your, er, “top” in hopes of making said top, well, bazoomier. Shockingly, this didn’t work and flooded the bathroom floor when the funnel part couldn’t handle the water pressure, popped off and sprayed water wildly about like waving man at a car dealership grand opening.

Truth is, I have drawers full of miracle eye creams, gel masks, lotions and potions of all kinds, none of which work. So, sure. I get the buccal fat removal craze.

The only downside would be what happens when you get older. Doctors are up-front about how hollowed cheekbones can make you look older once you’re, well, older. Turns out the buccal fat we’re born with is pretty valuable as you age and keeps you from looking like the vengeful Maleficent in “Sleeping Beauty” who I think was always just one Whopper away from being in a good mood. Those extremely sunken cheeks told the story. Girlfriend was just hangry.

Doctors also caution buccal fat removal could be a fad that no one would like just a year later. Amen. Your face shouldn’t be treated like a TikTok pasta. It’s possible chipmunk cheeks could be all the rage next year. I hope.

Buccal fat removal is quick. It takes less time than it takes to get a tooth filled, but it isn’t cheap, costing from $7,000 to $65,000, depending on where you live and how you feel about leeches. Kidding!

The buccal fat trend can be observed best by a Google search on actress Lea Michele and astrophysicist Khloe Kardashian, both of whom were conventionally attractive before but now, whoa! Their cheekbones are so sharp they could pop a bottlecap. Great party trick!

If you want to see if buccal fat removal is for you, they say you should gently suck in through a straw and look in the mirror. If you like what you see, well, you’re probably 25.

The rest of us should probably stay buccaled-up. So to speak.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Email her at [email protected].

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Harry & Meghan make me tired

Let’s begin the new year with the lofty goal of finding something we can all agree on. OK, I’ll go first. Somebody needs to tell Harry and Meghan that if they don’t want to be in the awful limelight maybe they should stop making tell-all documentaries for fun and profit.

Do I think the royal family snubbed Meghan? Maybe. They’re not exactly known for warmth and big, sloppy hugs. But, dang, y’all, she’s 41years old. Make like Elsa and let it gooooooo.

Do I think the royal family is racist? I hope not. I tend to think it’s less about that than the obvious fact that Meghan is, as the kids say, a lot. She marries into THE ROYAL FAMILY and then appears blindsided by all the attention. Girl. The paparazzi killed your mother-in-law. Connect the dots.

Maybe Meghan thought she knew how to handle fame. After all, seven seasons on USA’s “Suits” should’ve given her some idea of what it’s like to be famous, although not on the same scale of course. Meghan was the kind of actress who would cheerfully sign an autograph for a fan while she was standing at the hot bar at the Sherman Oaks Whole Foods. Or so I like to imagine. Meghan strikes me as the kind of actress you would see in something and ask your partner, “Where do we know her from?” and neither of you would quite be able to place her. (“No, that’s not it. Wait. Nah, that’s not it…”) But this royalty business is next level fame after skipping over, like, another 50 levels. Remember: hot bar.

I know the “fame pyramid” pretty well because I fall squarely in the middle of “adoring fan” if you consider the bottom is showing up at the mall to see a favorite soap star and the top is selling Adele’s chewed gum on Ebay.

Try to hang here. I’m explaining the genesis of crazy.

Harry’s just as bad. Kvetching about being stalked loses a tad of authenticity when you know he has signed a $100 million deal with Netflix to exploit his fame and family til the cows (or sheep) come home.

Truth is, if Harry had been serious about wanting to lead a normal life in California, he’d be pecking Megs on the cheek before heading out the door with a Thermos full of coffee, spending the early morning hours hovering over the 405 in a helicopter giving hourly traffic updates.

As they say, the “optics” of rich people whining are never good. It’s the old “please respect our privacy” like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez…who had a darling chapel wedding but followed it up with a stupendously massive affair with a few hundred of their nearest and dearest then pouted over the paps showing up. Or the ubiquitous fame-seeking politician caught being naughty who imperiously demands your respect for his family’s privacy. Shoulda thought about your fam first.

In the documentary, Harry makes quite a kerfuffle over his brother, William, the Earl of Fancypants yelling at him a time or two. Oh, for pity’s sake. Are you even brothers if one of you hasn’t yelled at the other or genially dislocated your shoulder a time or two while roughhousing? Toughen up, Viscount Buttercup.

To be honest, which I just hate, I’ve only watched excerpts of the Netflix documentary because I have been preoccupied with studying the geo-political impact of the nuclear fusion reaction that achieved a net energy gain for the first time. Kidding! What I meant to say is I’ve been hungover.

At the end of the day, I wish Harry and Meghan a delightful life together, truly I do. Just, perhaps, one with the volume turned to mute.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].


Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: When the real goal is finding common ground

The U.S. men’s national soccer team warms up before a friendly match against the national team of Uruguay on June 5, 2022, at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. Photo: Eric Thomas for the Kansas reflector

Sometimes the very best stories seem to come at the end of the year and that’s true of NPR’s report on a Texas hospital—and many others across America—who found patients and their caregivers united in their obsession with… World Cup soccer.

Instead of TVs tuned to the ubiquitous “Blue Bloods,” QVC and Fox, it seemed as if everyone was focused on soccer, cheering for an often newly adopted team through their oxygen masks, groaning from a disputed yellow card more than pain from a healing hip.

The soccer playoffs had an unexpected benefit: Patients saw their doctors as human beings, said Dr. Grace Farris, a hospitalist in Austin.

“You might feel a little pinch…of, wait…. GOOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!!!” Everyone in the hospital, from housekeeping to heart surgeons took a minute. Patients across the nation “scooched” over a little to make room on their beds. The bloodwork was back but that could wait a while. Fives were highed. Conversations were had. All that other stuff? That could wait. Would France beat Morocco? Would Argentina beat France? (Yep and yep.)

As a fan of UNC basketball and Panthers football, I know almost nothing about soccer, but I know a lot about trying to find common ground, particularly in 2022. It was tough out there.

It turns out that soccer, of all things, provided common ground in the most depressing place to be in general, particularly during the holidays. Who’d have thought?

Reading about the spikes of soccer fever spreading through hospital wards across the country, made me recall how the TV in the room could soften the blow –and provide a shared memory with a stranger–when I’ve had occasion to visit family members and dear friends in hospitals, nursing homes, even hospice.

I have talked to doctors about how many days, not weeks, a loved one had left thinking: “I can’t believe we are having this conversation with “Friends” on in the background.” And because I’d rather concentrate on whether Ross and Rachel were on a break or listen to Phoebe sing “Smelly Cat” to exaggerated studio audience laughter than deal with death, I glazed over and looked at the screen. I was listening. But I needed to rest my eyes somewhere safe and familiar.

These days, there are pillow speakers in hospitals, thanks be to God. Before that invention it was possible to emerge from a visit with a pounding headache from the cumulative clamor of the sirens of “Law & Order” and gunfights in “Bonanza.”

I visited the nursing home where my mama died four to five days a week and marveled every time at how “Golden Girls” was on in almost all the rooms. I’d always switch it to “Days of Our Lives” because, well, you have your family traditions; I’ll have mine.

Sometimes, a staffer would comment on the soap, lingering until the commercial break and I knew right away she was a lifer, just like me. Had her granny shushed her and said, “Sit down, honey, it’s time for my stories.” Most likely.

Dr. Farris, who is also a published author and accomplished cartoonist (what a loser, am I right?) produced a series of panels showing ER staff checking the quarterfinals on their phones and patients sharing their stories: “I can’t walk anymore but growing up in Mexico, soccer was in my blood.” The playoffs brought staff together as well, as newbies learned about “offside” and “nil” finding kindred spirits in co-workers all over the hospital.

During this third holiday season with COVID, soccer—a sport often mired in corruption and scandal, admits Farris–provided joy and communion in the most unlikely of settings.

“From where I’m standing,” said Dr. Farris, “the World Cup (was) a slam-dunk, hole-in-one, home run, excellent hospital holiday set piece.”

I’ll have to look up that last one.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].