A Step-by-Step Guide to Killing Grandpa

The air is crisp, the inflatable snowmen are out, and puffer vests have been swapped for puffer coats. Yes, it’s the holiday season — and that means one thing: it’s finally time to kill grandpa. 

The old bastard has been alive long enough, and lord knows that beach house isn’t going to hand itself over. Now, with snow on the ground and disease in the air, it’s time to end things. 

To help you out, here’s our step-by-step guide to killing grandpa this holiday season.

  1. Get yourself a nice indoor meal in the busiest city near you. You can’t go killing grandpa on an empty stomach.
  2. Go to the gym regularly. You’re going to want all your strength to finally do him in.
  3. Don’t wash your hands. What, you can commit murder but you’re afraid of germs?
  4. Take a flight to get to him.
  5. Invite him and all of your relatives to a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, especially the irresponsible ones and the ones who forward chain letters
  6. At dinner, hug him and spend all of your time right by his side
  7. After dinner is over, give one more hug and a kiss on the cheek. Look him right in the face and wish him well.
  8. Wait.

If you followed all of these instructions closely, chances are great that you’ll get the ultimate Christmas present — a dead grandpa! Stay tuned for more to come in our holiday tips series. Next up: how to use the word “hero” charitably instead of doing anything useful!

5 Perfect Halloween Costumes for 2020

Can you believe that it’s already Halloween next weekend? Between reopening schools and restaurants and fervently arguing over whether what we’re currently experiencing is a “second wave,” “third surge,” or “fifteenth thrust,” it seems that the last two months have just passed us all by. But if you, like so many, are caught unprepared for everyone’s favorite spooky holiday, fear not! We’ve compiled a handy list of the five best costumes for the eeriest Halloween yet.

5. A Cat, But The Kind That Just Stays In The House
Much like diamond earrings or Gregory Peck’s look in To Kill A Mockingbird, the cat costume will never go out of style. This year, add a fun COVID-19 twist by donning your sleekest blacks, painting whiskers on your face, and staying in your goddamn house.

4. A Conscientious Witch
For those willing to go a little “uglier,” you can never go wrong with a witch costume. But spice it up this year by being a witch in your own home, far from other people, because there’s literally no need to put anyone’s wellness in danger! You can find a hat, robe, and prosthetic wart for pretty cheap online, then all you need to do is grab a broom from your cupboard, and then just add the final touch: don’t! leave! your! fucking! house!

3. Elsa, But Only In The Part Of Frozen Where She Goes and Lives Literally Miles Away from the Nearest Person
Ever since Frozen came out a few years ago, the shining blue dress and platinum blonde hair have been one of Halloween’s hottest looks. Of course, you don’t want to be caught with the same costume as someone else at your party, so try adding a unique flourish: don’t go out to fucking parties, you moron! Jesus!

2. “The Last Great American Dynasty,” by Taylor Swift
Honestly, such a great idea. So many ways to interpret it. And stay at home, you dickwit.

1. A Werewolf with Crippling Social Anxiety
If you like fully committing to your costumes, a werewolf costume is perfect for you. Imagine how scary it will be when people see you! But only imagine, because you’re a werewolf with deep-seated social anxiety who hates parties. Guess you can’t go out! That’s really too bad. I guess you’ll have to sit at home and your couch and just watch a scary movie. 

Trump’s Most Likely October Surprises, Ranked

8. Replacing Mike Pence. If this was going to happen, by the rules it would have to be done at the convention. But the rules* also say you can’t have your attorney facilitate hush money payments to your porn star mistress during a campaign, so I feel like we can’t rule this out. It’s definitely the least likely item on the list, mainly because Trump values loyalty above all else and Pence has been a sycophant’s sycophant for his entire term.
*laws

7. Mass tribunals for BLM protesters. We’ve seen Tennessee announce that engaging in protests would result in a forfeiture of voting rights, and Trump already sent the secret police to create violence in Portland. So they’re not being terribly creative here, just kind of running down a totalitarian checklist for engaging with the opposition. Feels like show trials should come up fairly soon.

6. Banning mail or something. It almost feels inevitable at this point that we’re gonna reach a stage where sending mail items through the USPS is going to be a fierce act of #resistance.

5. War :). Remember how much he loved the fawning media coverage of his Syria strike? Now imagine that, but with a country no one’s ever heard of. 

4. Finding a doctor to claim Biden’s senile. This would probably need to be ginned up in the last few days before the election, so the news media doesn’t have time to dig up “facts” that “show this doctor has never had Joe Biden as a patient” or whatever. But still, it wouldn’t be too hard to find someone to make the claim. Is the devil jizz lady still available?

3. Killing his niece on Fifth Avenue. Experts agree, murdering a woman with a firearm could bring Trump’s GOP approval rating up an extra 3-6 percentage points.

2. Announcing charges/investigation into Biden, Hillary, Obama or, idk, someone like that. Again, this is an authoritarian classic, and Bill Barr has shown a somewhat sexual excitement at the opportunity to serve as Trump’s attack dog. It’s hard to imagine exactly what the charges would be (Did Hillary ever send an email about Benghazi? Could be something there), but that would largely be beside the point. Like Comey’s letter in 2016, the aim would just be to get the name of a Democrat in the news alongside words like “corruption” and “federal charges.”

1. Approving a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s hard to call this one a surprise, really. He’s been telegraphing it for months, and the administration is reportedly targeting the (fairly promising!) Oxford University vaccine. Whether he succeeds in making the FDA actually grant vaccine approval before the election, or just unilaterally announces that we have a vaccine now, I have absolutely 0% doubt that Trump is going to claim there’s a COVID vaccine by election day. And honestly I just hope there’s even a crumb of truth to it.

The Worst Wedding Toasts of 2021

Now that a glut of wedding celebrations have been pushed back to next year, we’re facing an unprecedented wedding season in 2021. Here’s the worst wedding speech lines we can expect in the year to come:

“At first, I thought we should take a global pandemic as a sign that the universe didn’t want these two to get married. In fact, I was grateful that Kelly would be forced to spend twenty months together with Ted before making the worst decision of her life. But I’m glad they soldiered through.” 

“May you two deal with adversity far better than the former presidential administration.” 

“And if you ever lay a finger on my daughter, I’ll come to your house and cough in your throat young man.” 

“If these two can survive quarantining together in a New York City walkup for 9 months, then what can’t they accomplish?” 

“Jen is so much prettier than your previous wife, who tragically passed away from massive respiratory failure last April. Wow, pretty fast on the uptake there, Mark.”

“At first, as Heather’s roommate, I was a little worried when she started bringing Jeff around. I mean, had this guy even been tested? Was he hanging out with other people? But then Jeff tested negative for COVID-19 (still waiting for that syphilis test to come back though, haha), and he turned out to be the most loving, thoughtful man not named Anthony Fauci. But Heather, don’t think that just because you’re married now that our nights of socially distanced rosé are over!”

“Margaret is so much prettier than your previous wife, Janis, who divorced you after quarantining 9 months together in a New York City walkup. Wow, pretty fast on the uptake, there, Steve.”

“I’m glad that you two can put an end to all that social distancing tonight, if you know what I mean. No but seriously this couple can get freakier than the toilet paper line at Costco during the first day of a stay-at-home order.”

“Folks, did you see that ring that Brett bought? I know that saving three months worth of salary is a little outdated, but man those $600 relief checks sure go a long way.”

“My sister Rachel is an absolute saint. While some of us continued partying in New Orleans weeks after the virus hit, there was good old Rach, calmly explaining to me that I needed to wear a mask if I wanted Aunt Carol to make it to the wedding tonight. Everybody, give it up for Aunt Carol, who survived 18 months in isolation in her Seattle nursing home to be here!”

“Dave, you are the Joe Exotic to my Travis Maldonado.”

“We’re so delighted those of you with antibodies were able to make it to our celebration. Thank you for getting tested in advance of our big day. We never thought we’d enjoy having a wedding with four guests so much!”

“I knew John had found the love of his life when he named his sourdough starter after Katie. Let’s raise a glass that their love continues to rise forever.”

“By the time Michael agreed to meet in person and take his mask off after all of our Sip n’ Zoom Thursdays, I didn’t even CARE what he looked like anymore. I was just ready to be touched again.”

“Sam, you are the missing jigsaw piece in my life, unlike the final piece to our Monet water lilies puzzle we started in March and couldn’t finish because the dog you fostered ate it.”

“Just look at the way these two stare at each other: like Nicolas Maduro stares at hydroxychloroquine tablets.”

“I hope these two have an amazing time in their honeymoon to the only nations that are letting Americans in right now: Albania, Belarus, and Belize!”

“Joshua, love is like the WHO: it’s a powerful bond that can only be broken when one party unilaterally prioritizes its own autonomy over the common good.”

“Aren’t we grateful that the airline industry survived this so we could all be here in Hawaii together to celebrate Chad and Melissa’s big day?”

“Kiki, don’t forget to wash all of those gifts in boiling water, let them rest in your garage for 24 hours, and sanitize them with Clorox wipes and bleach. You can never be too careful these days!”

“When Lisa asked me to write this speech, I googled the definition of ‘pandemic.’ It means ‘an outbreak of a pandemic disease.’ And that’s what Lisa and Jeff’s love is like.”

“In case you were wondering—yes it’s DEFINITELY a quarantine pregnancy.”

Trump’s COVID Response Is Reaganism Defined

On Oct. 15, 1982, President Reagan’s press secretary was asked about a newly discovered virus that was in the midst of devastating certain subsections of American society. The room laughed, the questioner persisted, and the official White House response to the disease was “I don’t have it, do you?”

The virus was HIV, and that reaction would set the tone for the federal government’s reaction over the ensuing decade. They ignored the deadly disease as it ravaged communities from coast to coast, because the people who were being killed were people they didn’t care about. Largely gay, often urban and poor, sometimes sex workers—these were not lives the White House felt mattered, or at least not enough to protect.

Fast forward 28 years, and President Trump’s administration has perfected the Reagan model of pandemic response. 

At first they ignored the virus, only taking action if it could be done in a jingoistic fashion. They declined to institute a national test and trace program when one could have still saved us. They waved it off, claiming it might disappear on its own or suggesting mass suicide via bleach injection if we were worried about it. Then once they realized it was disproportionately killing Black, Brown, and poor communities, they encouraged states to lift lockdowns—knowing full well this would spread the virus—and steadfastly refused to promote masks that might have helped at least slow the devastation.

And when the deaths skyrocketed again (as every epidemiologist, virologist, and human with an ability to gather news from anywhere besides QAnon fanboards knew they would)? President Trump did Reagan proud, declaring “it is what it is.” 

As if having a 9/11’s worth of excess human death every 2.5 days was just a fact of life. One happening outside the realm of administration actions and consequences. 

So it’s worth remembering as “decent” Republicans loudly proclaim they want to return to a pre-Trump era of compassionate conservatism, that none of this has ever been terribly compassionate. Not to the most marginalized communities, and not to the groups that were abandoned by their country in the ‘80s and are being abandoned by their government right now. 

Twelve Things Less Cute Five Months Into Quarantine

Do you remember mid-March? Oh, those were the days. Stockpiling two weeks of toilet paper like we’d only be trapped inside for AT MOST three weeks, and posting photos of our medicare bread. What a time. Now, five months into what is either definitely the home stretch or the beginning of our lives hermetically sealed in our apartments for the rest of forever, this whole experience has become a little less novel. Here are twelve things that are way less cute five months into the endless quarantine. 

  1. Sourdough Starter: The sourdough starter may have died, but something in there is alive, purple, and growing. I don’t think it would be happy if I tried to bake it. 
  2. Avoiding People on the Sidewalk: I would trade my big toe to casually bump into a stranger without fear.
  3. Zoom Backgrounds: No amount of pretending to be on the Death Star during video conferences will suppress the desire to force-choke anyone who requires cameras to be on for every meeting.
  4. Drinking Alone: FaceTime happy hour turns into private sad five-hour and it is ~not chill~ anymore.
  5. Baking as Therapy: Eating your feelings is not sustainable for this much time with this many feelings to eat. I have gout. 
  6. Donald Trump being President: lol remember when Republicans were like, “OMG shut up it’s not like he’s going to kill everyone. Remember when Obama wore a tan suit?” Well I hate to say we told you so but 163,000 people are dead and this is not a joke and it never was a joke jesus christ. Get this man into a retirement home where he can spend time with his favorite person, woman, man, camera, and TV.
  7. Retail Therapy: The only thing less fun than getting fat and sad is getting fat, sad, and poor. 
  8. Not Being in Crowds: I will pay you to graze my ass like we’re in a cramped space just so I can feel something, anything.
  9. Cutting Your Own Hair: U-G-L-Y you ain’t got no alibi YOUR HAIR IS FUCKED UP.
  10. Working on the Couch: BRB Googling, “Can you develop scoliosis by sitting hunched forever?” 
  11. Living in a State of Perpetual Panic: Hahah is this literally ever going to end? No, seriously. Someone tell me. This was cute when it was all like, “We’re all in this together, let’s all applaud for the working poor being forced to risk their health or starve.” (Editor’s note: This was not cute.) Now though, I’m about one more stalled relief bill from flying to DC and spitting directly into Mitch McConnell’s mouth to finally get results on whether I have COVID on a reasonable timeline. Remember when you would debate with your friends on who would last longest in a zombie apocalypse? Well it’s not me, and it would be pretty nifty if we don’t have to put those theories to the test. 
  12. Not Going into the Office: JK this one still rules. You fuckers will never see me in-person again if I have anything to say about it. Deuces. 

Power Ranking Potential COVID-19 Vaccines

Sports,,, they’re BACK. But over the past four months sans sports in the U.S., I’ve primarily done three things: watch European footy, stare forlornly at walls, and start following vaccines like they’re club teams I’m rooting for.

Now, let’s start with the obvious. The stakes for COVID-19 vaccine development are at least marginally higher than those involved with Javy Baez’s chase for his long overdue MVP crown. And more importantly, there’s no one I’m rooting against in the race for a vaccine. The only way out of this post-apocalyptic hellscape we call Tuesday is with a safe, effective, and widely distributed vaccine. This is serious stuff, and we should all be hoping one of these vaccines works out.

HOWEVER!

That’s absolutely not gonna stop me from power-ranking the potential* vaccines:

1. The Oxford/AstraZeneca Ayzees: Folks, this is what we mean when we talk about an elite vaccine. It’s already in Phase III trials, and Phase I/II showed it delivered those antibodies we all crave with no negative side effects. But the real differentiator here is the timing and scale. AstraZeneca has said if all goes well, emergency doses (for specific high-risk individuals, not for you) could be available in October—and that they could ramp up production for two billion doses if approved. That’s far and away the highest number of any contender, and it puts the Ayzees in a tier of their own. 

2. The Moderna Theranoses: This vaccine is being developed with the NIH and already, Dr. Fauci has lauded its Phase I/II results and Phase III began last week. The early results are extremely promising, but haters remain caught up on things like “Moderna having never brought a product to market in its history as a company” or “that time the Moderna CEO told Trump we’d have a vaccine in a few months… in March.” Fortunately, we’re not here to hate. Company reputation aside, in Fauci we trust.

3. The Pfizer Pfighting T Cells: Big pharma, regrettably, delivers again. Phase III has just begun, after Phase I/II found not only some delectable antibodies but a nice little dose of T cells too—albeit with some moderate side effects. Pfizer gets big ups for promising to deliver 100 million doses by December 2020 if approved and 1.3 billion doses by December 2021. So why are they not higher? Pfizer has already signed a $2 billion deal with the Trump administration to provide doses of this vaccine, and it’s hard to imagine this president signing on to anything that could improve public health.

4. The Sinopharm Chairmans: It wouldn’t be too surprising if Wuhan, the original epicenter of the pandemic (before Scottsdale swooped in to steal the title), produced the vaccine. This one’s in Phase III and showed promising Phase I/II results, with Chinese state media reporting the state-run research company could be distributing the vaccine widely by year’s end. And that’s where we have to dock this Chinese state-run company: sorry if it triggers Ted Cruz, but sometimes I do not believe that the Chinese government is telling the truth. 

5. The Sinovac Stingy Syringes: A promising option out of China, this time from privately owned Sinovac Biotech. Phase III trials are running in July now, but the company really loses points on manufacturing capabilities. They’ve promised the ability to generate 100 million doses per year, which is just not the type of offensive production anyone’s looking for at this point in the game.

6. The Johnson & Johnson Baby Wipes: Apparently the company in charge of ensuring tear-free bathtime for babies is also in charge of our shared survival as a species, which is very cool and good. Anyway, this trial just moved into Phase I/II, but they say they can produce a billion doses in 2021, if approved, so they earn a spot on the list.

7. The CanSinoBIO Cadets: Another Chinese candidate, this vaccine has flown through Phase I/II like many others. It would probably be higher on the list if it weren’t for the fact that instead of Phase III, they’re just kind of… testing it on the Chinese military. And here at Left On Read, we have recently decided we are AGAINST involuntary medical trials. We will not apologize for this.

8. Whatever The Fuck Russia’s Doing: Russia says it’s got a vaccine ready for approval this month, and it will begin distributing to healthcare workers and teachers shortly thereafter. I hope they do! But considering they’ve released no details, proof, trials, or evidence, I have more doubts than the President when he’s informed of something called a “Tiffany.” 

9. The Murdoch Propping Gandas: Not only is this vaccine being developed by something called the Murdoch Children’s Research Hospital, but it’s not even supposed to be a full immunity-inducing vaccine. It’s just supposed to kind of help or something. I’m mad about it, and I’m mad at Rupert Murdoch—for this and literally everything else about him. 

*As of June 1, there were 157 potential vaccines in trials. Using the relegation model, I only ranked the top flight vaccines—those in Phase III or which have shown the biggest promise in Phase II.

Grading Fauci

Recently, Anthony Fauci was the subject of a scathing op-ed by something called a Peter Navarro (??). Navarri is known, tragically, to have an extremely bad brain and the White House was forced to claim they had nothing to do with the piece. 

But while much scorn has been directed Navarro’s way, what should we make of Fauci himself? He’s been deified on the left, vilified on the right, and sidelined by the White House. But how should we grade his performance during this pandemic?

Criteria 1: death and destruction
Hooooo boy. Ok, so theoretically, as the nation’s top virologist it’s Fauci’s main job to prevent hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths by virus. On that front, the scale of the failure is, um, unignorable. But it’s not going too far out on a limb to say that his guidance hasn’t always been followed, and his advice has generally been to do things like socially distance and wear a mask (we’ll get back to this) that could have prevented the current nightmare we’re sleepwalking through. And considering that the head of the White House Coronavirus task force is the same guy responsible for bringing the HIV/AIDS epidemic back to Indiana, it’s probably fair to say this could have been much worse.
Grade: B-

Criteria 2: scientific adherence
Here’s where Fauci has really shined. In the face of a White House courageously pledging not to let “the science get in the way” of killing teachers, Fauci has been steadfast in forcing the science into the way. It hasn’t always worked out, but Fauci has consistently refused to talk politics or really anything other than the science of the pandemic—and it seems pretty likely that if the president had suggested injecting bleach in his presence, rather than Dr. Birx’s, he would have spoken up,
Grade: A

Criteria 3: protective measures
On the one hand, the CDC committed what epidemiologists refer to as a “catastrophic fuck up” (CFU, in industry-speak) when in March it advised the nation not to wear masks for a virus that turned out to likely be airborne. Fauci doesn’t work at the CDC, but as the nation’s most trusted voice on communicable diseases, he surely played a role in that CFU. On the other hand, Fauci has been adamant about keeping social distance and closing down businesses when needed, even in the face of a president determined to eradicate the state of Florida. 
Grade: B+

Criteria 4: looking sick as fuck
Anthony Fauci is like four feet tall, a billion years old, and would absolutely be able to pipe every intern in the greater Silver Springs area if there weren’t a fucking pandemic. 
Grade: A+, somehow

Criteria 5: keeping his job
As bad as things are, they would surely be worse if Trump’s next choice for the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease—the doctor who prescribed Michael Jackson all that propofol, probably—were in charge. Fauci’s ability to publicly contradict the president and not get fired has been perhaps his greatest strength, and perhaps the only thing keeping us from a situation as dire as that in [add country doing worse at this than the US, make one up if none exists].
Grade: A++

Overall
So how do we grade him on the whole? The pandemic has been a disaster for everyone except grave-diggers, so he’s certainly not getting perfect marks. But an A- feels pretty fair. Maybe that’s just because it’s so jarring to see a government official trying to keep people alive, but if he’s benefiting from low expectations, so be it. Now, go have some freaky socially distant phone sex with a GW grad student, Tony. 
Grade: A-

it’s offensive t-swift had to release folkore in summer

it’s ridiculous. preposterous. a miscarriage of justice? okay, not that far. but it’s pretty fucking bad. i’ll just say it: it is offensive that taylor swift, poet laureate and heiress to the stevie nicks’ throne of “forest fairy who also will wreck your life with a single song lyric”, had to release folklore, an obvious fall album, during the middle of this godforsaken summer.

let’s look at the facts:

  1. the song “august” clearly takes place in the past. knock, knock? who’s there? it’s still july you ingrates. i should be crying to this in september. 
  2. all of the photography for the promotion took place in a woodsy clearing. you know what sucks in the middle of summer? big, open, woodsy spaces. they’re too hot, and not appropriately moody. the amount of editing it must have taken to produce those photos is a travesty.
  3. “exile” required bon iver to come out of his annual summer hibernation, which is like inviting a vampire to an outdoor garlic festival at 1pm.
  4. say it with me: “cardigans are not summer appropriate.” 
  5. tears evaporate too quickly in the summer, and then you’re just sitting there like some puffy, sad salt lick.

now, i want to make one thing perfectly clear: i do not fault taylor swift for this, and not just because I fear her powers. taylor has managed to make us all feel a new flavor of sad during this hopeless summer, versus the standard lukewarm defeatist depression. no, i blame everyone who hasn’t worn their goddamn mask and every government official who decided that it would be supes cute to open businesses when we had “flattened the curve” at roughly one billion cases a day, because you created an atmosphere so devoid of anything to watch or do that our great cardigan goddess felt compelled to release this album now instead of waiting for a more appropriate season. she shouldn’t have had to do this. it is cruel, unusual, and seasonally inappropriate.

if there is any justice in the world, taylor swift will soon be releasing an album that, when played backwards, sends all of you back to the hell you crawled out of. for now, we’ll all just have to settle for knowing that, in the grand scheme of this hellpit summer, we’re all betty. 

the only correct responses to hearing folklore

it is the summer of folklore and we are *feeling* things. t-swift has dropped an emotion bomb, and while our response has been to sob into a decaying oak tree, that may not be your vibe. however, there are certain reactions to this woodsy attack on the heartstrings that are more appropriate than others. here are the twenty-three definitively correct things to do after listening to folklore:

  1. calling your high school ex, begging them to get back together, fifteen years later
  2. diving headfirst into a murky bog and proclaiming it as your new home
  3. screaming, “why don’t you look at me like you used to?!?” at your mailman
  4. renting a 2006 honda civic for an unnecessarily cramped make out session
  5. getting a bob, regardless of whether you have the face shape for it
  6. editing every profile photo you’ve ever uploaded to be black-and-white
  7. listening to early lana del rey and whispering and pointing out all areas where taylor has now done it better
  8. muttering, “i gave so many signs” whenever you’re asked to repeat yourself
  9. calling your high school ex to tell them you hate them now more than ever, then hanging up and blocking their number
  10. replacing all of your summer tops with cardigans and embracing the sweltering heat because suffering is love
  11. cyberbullying inez
  12. buying a baby grand piano that literally can’t fit in your apartment
  13. carrying out an illicit affair, but, like, sadly
  14. authoring a hamilton-esque chilean historical musical titled “my tears, pinochet”
  15. calling your high school ex and crying, “was it true???” over and over, at a higher emotional pitch each time, until they finally say, “yes.” it does not matter if they know what you’re asking about
  16. getting in a fight with bon iver
  17. installing a screen door in your fifth floor walk-up, just to be able to slam it
  18. saying “fuck” in dulcet tones
  19. increasing the thickness of various sweaters
  20. allowing august to slip away like a bottle of wine
  21. legally changing your name to betty 
  22. holding grudges, tenderly
  23. chamomile