Sometimes you've just got to get yourself that Winter Candy Apple and Iced Gingerbread.
I hope Jen from Appleton, Wisconsin is doing well these days.
As for Angela, the star of the best Bath & Body Works rant of all time (and there are surprisingly many on YouTube), I hope she's living a Winter Candy Apple-scented life to the fullest.
In 2012, the aspiring vlogger posted a rant about her dire mission to acquire two coveted candles from Bath & Body Works: Winter Candy Apple and Iced Gingerbread. The outstanding 11-minute video recounts her harrowing journey to the store in APPLETON, WISCONSIN (it's very important the store is called out for their heinous treatment of Angela).
After the video was discovered and spread across Tumblr, it was recognized as a cultural masterpiece of our time, a treatise on the frailty of the human condition and our undying perseverance to end our own suffering at any cost.
A synopsis: Angela stalked the store for her special holiday 3-wick candles. The store called and said they had her candles. Angela went to the store to wait for her candles. Manager "Jen" (full air quotes in the video) apologized that they didn't have the full size of her candles.
Angela became "an ANGRY blonde!!!" as she calls herself in her vlog. To which end: "Oh Jen, Your ass is gonna get reamed," she growls into her surreally out-of-focus "vlogging" lens.
The highlights of the clip are, of course, Angela's complete lack of self-awareness and how thoroughly in-character she is when she says to "Jen": "I don't mean to be rude or anything, but I think I deserve something." Is Angela playing an Arthur Miller-esque character of an aggrieved midwesterner who's lost the ability to feel emotions save for material objects? Is this character so jaded by modern existence and the torturous mind games humans play with each other in our daily social interactions (i.e. small talk, cordiality in check-out lines, harassment-free phone calls) that she's funneled all of her existential rage at "Jen from Appleton?"
Is that why she keeps referencing that Packers game? "I think the packers won? I don't know; I've been dealing with F*CKING B*TCHES ALL DAY," she emotes into the camera, begging for help with her round, dead eyes.
What is it about the Winter Candy Apple scent that Angela so sickly covets?
Health professionals concede that aromatherapeutic scents can improve one's mood, with essential oils releasing chemicals that can trigger your smell receptors in such a way that your brain receives positive messages. Aromatherapy, though under-studied, has been shown to be beneficial to people suffering from depression and anxiety. Is that why Angela seeks these candles like it's her mythic heroic journey? Is she not seeking Iced Gingerbread at all, but her soul?
Thomas Mann once wrote, "The striking feature of modern art is that it sees life as tragicomedy, with the result that the grotesque is its most genuine style." Consider what happens next:
I MIGHT Boycott Bath & Body Works RANT! youtu.be
"Jen from Appleton" can't offer any balm to Angela's soul-wounds except for coupons. To which Angela says, "Jen, I own every single coupon Bath & Body Works has. I don't need any more COUPONS. Can you give me something else?"
Of course, for what can a discount do to mend the pieces of our hearts and minds broken by capitalism when all we want is that moment of sweet relief found only in the burning ember of a flame?
Why must love be transactional? Who puts a price on serenity?
And then the confrontation reaches its climax, like Sisyphus rolling his boulder to the top of the hill, when "Jen from Appleton" suggests Angela call a 1-800 number to complain to "a live person." "A LIVE PERSON?!" Angela screams in anguish. "WHO THE F*CK DO YOU THINK I'M TALKING TO NOW? AM I TALKING TO YOU, WHO IS NOT REALLY HERE? ARE YOU NOT REALITY? BECAUSE I THOUGHT YOU WERE A LIVE PERSON. ARE YOU NOT A LIVE PERSON?!"
Are any of us live people? How are we to know if we're truly living rather than simply performing our roles in these mind games that make up the social experiment called LIFE?! WAS JEN REAL? WAS ANGELA? AM I? What the ever loving f*ck is a winter candy apple?!
Now that it's nearing that time of year for the Bath & Body Works sale, I can't help but think of both Angela and Jen from Appleton and the lessons they've taught me. I take up more space in the world for having followed their journey, and when 2020 releases its cruel grip on our sense of security and candle shopping plans, I plan to look each cashier in the eye a little longer, knowing we share knowledge of suffering between us.
With my face forward into the unknown winds of 2021, I wish the best for all the Jens from Appletons — but not Angela. She was a b*tch.
Angela vs Bath & Body Works rant youtu.be
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It's the highest-stakes battle between two old white men since every war ever.
This is a story of two old white men who became online symbols of political movements — in one case intentionally, in the other...less so.
On the one hand we have Dennis Prager, a talk-radio host in his early 70s who promotes a far-Right political ideology. A Jewish man from Brooklyn, Prager has long aligned himself with America's Christian-Right, going so far as to say — in response to then newly-elected Muslim congressman Keith Ellison swearing in on the Quran — that "America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."
On the other hand we have Mike Gravel, a former anti-war Senator from Alaska who twice ran for president. Gravel is in his early 90s and probably never wanted to be president at all. Rather, his campaigns — in 2008, then again in 2020 — were driven by a goal to promote his left-wing politics, with an emphasis on direct democracy and an anti-interventionist foreign policy.
Both men are known for taking shots at Democrats, and both men have endorsed some fringe ideas in their time. While Dennis Prager continues to promote supply-side, "trickle-down" economics — AKA Reaganomics — after decades of demonstrated failure and has worked to spread "skepticism" about the 2020 presidential election results, Gravel has espoused his belief that "9/11 was an inside job," and pushed to build a 4-square-mile teflon Dome to house "Denali City" during his tenure as Senator.
But what really makes these two men at once so alike and so distinct is their unlikely roles as Internet icons.
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Gravel made headlines from the debate stage by calling out his Democratic colleagues for their complicity in upholding America's military empire and the military-industrial complex — accusations which Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden laughed off in exaggerated displays.
Mike Gravel - On Other Candidates and War www.youtube.com
But where Gravel 2008 really made a splash was in a series of surreal campaign ads. The most iconic of the lot, "Rock," featured Gravel staring wordlessly at the camera for a full 70 seconds before picking up a large rock and throwing it into a lake in the background — followed by an additional minute and change of the former senator walking off into the distance.
Was it profound and inspirational with a cutting political message? Nope. But it was weird enough to catch some viral heat in the early days of YouTube and ended up making an appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Gravel managed to earn just 404 votes in New Hampshire's primary. But his bizarre claim to Internet celebrity, combined with his confrontational debate performances, planted a seed that would sprout into something even stranger more than a decade after the fact.
Mike Gravel - Rock - www.youtube.com
Meanwhile, Dennis Prager was hosting his talk radio show and endorsing John McCain for president. Another year would pass, along with the inauguration of President Barack Obama — before Prager got together with his producer Allen Estrin and decided to test the waters of YouTube themselves, launching their YouTube channel PragerU — short for Prager University — in 2009.
The Rise of PragerU
With the eye-rolling tagline "give us five minutes, and we'll give you a semester," Prager and Estrin set out to make pithy, digestible, hyper-simplified videos to counter the left-leaning politics they saw as dominating college campuses. And while the extent to which they've reached their target demographic of college-aged kids is questionable, they have certainly found an audience.
Twelve years, hundreds of videos, 2.9 million subscribers, and more than 5 billion views later, PragerU has become a force to be reckoned with in the sphere of political YouTube. Thanks to tens of millions of dollars in backing from the likes of fracking billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks — much of which goes to promoting their content on Facebook — PragerU is able to produce slick videos full of animated sequences and official-looking graphs that tend to lack labels, data, and meaning.
Those charts capture the true ethos of PragerU. While their videos are framed as works of rational, academic thought — they even provide study guides and other resources for educators and parents who want to use them for "educational" purposes — they are anything but.
How PragerU Lies to You www.youtube.com
More often than not, their videos actually ignore scientific work on the issues they discuss, preferring to rely on hollow appeals to common sense in order to attack Black Lives Matter, feminism, critical race theory, COVID mitigation, single-payer healthcare, climate science, world history, and much more.
What's worse is that their videos work. According to polling, around 1 in 3 Americans online have seen PragerU's content, and around 70% of PragerU viewers report having changed their minds on at least one topic as a result of PragerU.
With videos presented by Dennis Prager and basically every prominent conservative online — Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Candace Owens, etc. — PragerU is successfully pulling millions of Americans further Right. And with recent ventures into right-wing children's animation, that effort is getting all the more frightening…
But how do people who dread what that means for the future of America and the world push back? For a long time the answer was response videos (see above). And while there are any number of well-crafted video essays pointing out the lies and inconsistencies that predominate in PragerU's videos, the nature of this kind of methodical breakdown usually produces 20-minute-long, detailed videos — in response to PraguerU's casual 5 minutes.
Responses to PragerU are never as pithy as the original content — let alone as heavily marketed. They relied on the audience to seek them out and to have the patience to sit through them. There was no resource for slick, digestible left-wing political thought on YouTube, and the lack of Leftist petro-billionaires presented a problem for how such an anti-PragerU could even be funded.
Fortunately, the rise of political campaigns funded by small-dollar donations offers a model for solving that problem. Look to Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who held their own against opponents with wealthy backers thanks to a broad base of small-dollar support. Better yet, look to the resurgence of Mike Gravel.
The Teens Running Former Sen. Mike Gravel's Presidential Campaign (HBO) www.youtube.com
The Gravel Teens
Despite his disappointing performance in the 2008 primaries, Gravel's career as a presidential candidate was far from over. In 2019, he was resurrected by a group of teenagers who were inspired by his 2008 debate performance and bizarre campaign ads.
They reached out to the long-retired Gravel, then approaching 90. And suddenly, the campaign for one of the oldest people to ever run for the presidency was being run by what is undoubtedly the youngest campaign staff in history — chief of staff Henry Williams was 18 years old, while campaign manager David Oks was just 17.
Once again, Gravel was not aiming to win, but to get on the debate stage and change the conversation. And "the Gravel Teens," as they came to be known, were attracting support along with tens of thousands of donations — most for either $1 or $4.20 — with a sardonic Twitter presence that mostly consisted of attacks against the mainstream Democratic candidates levelled from the left of Bernie Sanders.
Unfortunately, despite their success in meeting the DNC's donor threshold — and possibly as a result of a deliberate effort to suppress his candidacy — Mike Gravel didn't meet the polling requirements to get on the debate stage. Still, he had once again become an Internet darling, and his team of teens had laid the foundation for something bigger.
How to Defeat PragerU: The Gravel Institute www.youtube.com
How the Left Pushes Back
Enter The Gravel Institute. Like PragerU, it has the official-sounding name, the slick, animated sequences, the weird old white guy mascot, and the digestible, 5-minute political videos. Unlike PragerU, the Gravel Institute has a tendency to rely on actual research, and it's funded not by billionaires, but by normal people pledging a few bucks on Patreon.
While this remains a David vs. Goliath story, The Gravel Institute is growing quickly. They released their first video outlining their mission to push back against PragerU's propaganda last September, and their YouTube channel already has over 250,000 subscribers.
With the help of Leftist journalists, celebrities, politicians, and academics from Emma Vigeland to Bhaskar Sunkara to David Cross and Professor Richard Wolff, The Gravel Institute offers exactly the kind of approachable, entertaining, and educational videos that were missing from the online Left. And they have more coming down the pipeline from the likes of Bernie Sanders, Chelsea Manning, and Cornel West.
David Cross: Why America Sucks at Everything www.youtube.com
It will take a herculean effort to overcome PragerU's toxic influence, but The Gravel Institute is on the right track. Covering topics from mass incarceration to the value of public housing to Uber's destructive business model, they make left-wing politics — backed by actual research and motivated by empathy — seem as simple and straightforward as any of PragerU's "common sense."
Now all we need is a cage match between Dennis Prager and Mike Gravel to really settle things.
Music played a huge role during the #EndSARS protests of October 2020 in Nigeria. Across protest grounds, music boosted the morale of the crowds, inspiring the masses to demand changes in Nigerian policing.
A video posted on Twitter of a man, later identified as Joshua Ambrose, being thrown out of a moving vehicle by SARS (or Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a unit of the Nigerian police force) officers in Ughelli, a rural town in southern Nigeria, prompted the protests after it went viral.The now-defunct SARS — created to combat the widespread robbery and kidnappings of the 80s — had become notorious for harassing, brutalizing, and extorting young Nigerians for their appearance or for the gadgets they carried, sometimes even profiling them as internet fraudsters.
Musicians were at the forefront of the movement from the start. Musicians Falz and Runtown led the first protests in Lagos, and in the southeastern part of the country, highlife musicians Phyno and Flavour organized mass protests in different cities. However, not much music from these pop icons was played at protest locations, as their music did not exactly match the mood of the protests.
Instead, to set the tone for the uprising, DJs scratched back decades in time for music that could suit the moment, ultimately finding solace and power in the discographies of older musicians such as Fela.
Fela isn't just famous today for pioneering the Afrobeat genre that has influenced music across Africa and beyond; he's also beloved because of the way his music has always intertwined with his activism. Tracks like "Zombie," "Authority Stealing," and "Coffin for Head of State" rallied against the ineptitude and corruption of the Nigerian government of his time.
Fela Kuti - Zombie (Edit) (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
It is sad that decades later, Nigerians still find those songs reflective of their present and are still plagued with similar concerns — which include, police brutality, corrupt government, unemployment, oppressive leadership. "Zombie," which was released in 1976 during the oppressive military regime of General Murtala Mohammed, compared the Nigerian soldiers to zombies who follow orders mindlessly, even when it means committing crimes against humanity. The same can be said today of the Nigerian police and armed forces.
In 1983, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria's then head of state, had Fela arrested and sentenced to jail over trumped-up charges of money laundering due to Fela's criticism of his government. It's been more than 30 years since then, and Nigeria operates a civilian government today, but Buhari — who returned as the country's president in 2015 — isn't reformed: instead, he's ruling the country with as much despotism as he did in his previous government.
#EndSARS may have been a call to end police brutality and for the disbandment of a rogue police unit, but it soon became a demand for better governance, with citizens stating clearly their demands in 5 points. And soon, songs like African China's Mr. President, released more than a decade ago, found their way on protest playlists. The song's chorus sings:
Lead us well
If you be governor
Govern us well
If you be senator
Senate am well
If you be police
Police well well, no dey take bribe
No matter how far back the DJs reached, contemporary music still broke through. While musicians like Burna Boy and Falz may have a few songs that decry the country's poor condition, it was Davido's Fem — a song widely understood to be a diss track at a rival musician — that became the protest movement's true anthem.
Among the protestors, the song was infectious. The lyric I dey live my life, man dey turn am to shoot on sight came to embody the people's frustrations with the police, and their calls for the right to exist without fear of a gun being pointed at you.
Davido - FEM (Official Video) www.youtube.com
Nigerian pop music has been the subject of a lot of criticism for not being socially conscious. But the events of #EndSARS and the night of the massacre at Lekki were too horrific for musicians to simply ignore.
Just like the Nigerian populace, Nigerian music experienced an awakening during the many days that stretched into weeks of protests all over cities and towns in Nigeria during the #EndSARS protests. A good number of musicians from established acts like Burna Boy to budding artists like Chike felt not only the duty to document the events but also to protest the carnage the government had sponsored.
Here are some of the new songs that #EndSARS inspired.
Banky W's "Talk and Do"
Banky W - "Talk and Do" feat. 2Baba, Timi Dakolo, Waje, Seun Kuti, Brookstone & LCGC (LYRIC VIDEO) www.youtube.com
Banky W collaborates with other Nigerian musicians Timi Dakolo, Waje Kuti, Seun Kuti, Brookstone, and LGC on this track. "Talk and Do" is instructive; it calls Nigerians to action. Here, Banky W and the ensemble assert that simply talking about the problems of Nigeria isn't enough to create change. The song emphasizes the importance of social activism, encouraging all to be part of the change they would like to see.
But the song also comes off a tad insensitive, considering it was released just six days after the Lekki Massacre. On the night of October 20, 2020, unarmed #EndSARS protesters gathered in Lekki, an upscale suburb in Lagos, were shot at by soldiers of the Nigerian Army. Amnesty International reports that at least,12 people were killed that night. The Lekki Massacre brought the protests to an abrupt halt. Banky W's charging message of spurring social activism in Nigerians, however well-intentioned, was coming at the wrong time.
Falana - Teletele (Lyric Video) www.youtube.com
Five days after the shooting of unarmed protesters at Lekki, Falana uploaded a video to her Instagram, where she poured out her heart on the pains of the event with music. My heart is bleeding, what's the remedy, she cried out. As she detailed in an Instagram post later announcing the song's release, "Teletele" was her way of processing the shock and anguish she felt on the night of the massacre, proclaiming that producing the #EndSARS-inspired song was in line with her fundamental duty as an artist — to reflect the times.
Chike's "20-10-20 (Wahala Dey)"
Chiké - 20.10.20 (Wahala Dey) [Viral Video] youtu.be
Chike's record begins with a recording of Nigerian politician and legislator Desmond Elliot at a Lagos State Assembly meeting campaigning for a clampdown on social media use in Nigeria because of the harsh government criticism being perpetuated there. The video had gone viral on Twitter and had sparked outrage, as it was released a few days after the massacre, and Nigerians saw the move to crack down on social media as an attempt to stifle free speech.
Throughout Chike's record, he criticizes and expresses frustration with government policies and the oppression of its citizens that culminated on the night of the massacre. Chike's record asks the all too important questions plaguing Nigerians since that fateful night: Who give the order to shoot us all? Who give the order to kill us all?
Despite live video footage evidence from that night, the Nigerian government continues to deny the massacre.
Burna Boy's "20 10 20"
Burna Boy - 20 10 20 (Audio) www.youtube.com
While Chike asks questions, Burna's record is a lot bolder. He overtly accuses the government and the police of the atrocities of the night, naming and shaming everyone involved or who looked away including the president, his chief of staff, the governor of Lagos, the commandant, and the soldiers who shot at protesters that night. The song ends with a provocative tape from the night of the massacre. While soldiers fired ammunition, a protester, probably waving the Nigerian flag, can be heard in the background telling other protesters to sit calmly. It is heartbreaking.
Femi and Made Kuti's Legend
In February 2021, Femi and Made Kuti, son and grandson of Fela, released a joint album called Legacy. Both albums, Femi's Stop the Hate and Mades's For(e)ward, continue the Kuti legacy of using music to share critical messages and demand social change.
It would be disingenuous to assert that #EndSARS inspired the album because work on it began months before the protest started, but the album couldn't have come at a better time. It addresses police brutality, social inequality, and corruption in government—all concerns of #EndSARS.
No matter that the #EndSARS protests had ended on a bleak note; the protest music it inspired can be considered an upside of the movement on the whole. Like many movements fueled by music before it, #EndSARS proved that music isn't only a tool for entertainment. It can genuinely inspire social change, working as an important tool for activism and dissent across the globe.