bare landscape

The Anarchists vs. the Islamic State

Brace Belden before a battle in Syria in November. Courtesy of Brace Belden

By Seth Harp for The Rolling Stone. February 14, 2017 [x]

On the front lines of Syria with the young American radicals fighting ISIS

On the morning of his first battle, Brace Belden was underdressed for the cold and shaky from a bout of traveler’s diarrhea. His Kurdish militia unit was camped out on the front line with ISIS, 30 miles from Raqqa, in Syria. Fighters stood around campfires of gas-soaked trash, boiling water for tea, their only comfort besides tobacco. “I’ve never been so dirty in my life,” Belden recalls. When the time came to roll out, he loaded a clip into his Kalashnikov and climbed into a makeshift battlewagon, a patchwork of tank and truck parts armored with scrap metal and poured concrete. Belden took a selfie inside its rusty cabin and posted it online with the caption “Wow this freakin taxi stinks.”

The rest of the militia piled into an assortment of minivans, garbage trucks and bulldozers, and rode south into territory ISIS had held for more than three years. Belden was manning a swivel-mounted machine gun, the parched landscape barely visible through the rising dust, when he spotted a car packed with explosives revving across the desert toward the Kurdish column. Before he could shoot, an American fighter jet lacerated the sky and an explosion erupted where the car had been, shaking the earth for miles around.

It was November 6th, 2016. The Kurdish militia known as the YPG – a Kurmanji acronym for People’s Protection Units – had commenced a major offensive to liberate the city that serves as the global headquarters for ISIS. The YPG was backed by U.S. air power and fighting alongside a coalition of Arab and Assyrian militias. Also within their ranks, though scantly reported, was a group of about 75 hardcore leftists, anarchists and communists from Europe and America, Belden among them, fighting to defend a socialist enclave roughly the size of Massachusetts.

Belden, who is 27, started tweeting photos of the front shortly after arriving in Syria in October. The first widely shared image showed him crouched in his YPG uniform, wearing thick Buddy Holly glasses, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, a stray puppy in one hand and a sniper rifle in the other. “To misquote Celine,” the post read, “when you’re in, you’re in.” He has since amassed 19,000 followers under the handle PissPigGranddad, puzzling the Internet with a combination of leftist invective and scurrilous bro humor. Tweets like “Heading to the Quandil Mountains to lecture the PKK about entitlement reform” are followed by “The dude with the lamb bailed so now we’re fucked for dinner.”

Belden had no military experience before joining the YPG. He lived in San Francisco, where he arranged flowers for a living. Before that, he was a self-described lumpenproletariat, a lowlife punk and petty criminal with a heroin habit who started reading Marx and Lenin seriously in rehab. Once sober, he got involved in leftist causes, marching for tenants’ rights, blocking evictions, protesting police brutality. As he prepared for the Middle East, his girlfriend thought he was going to do humanitarian work. She was “not stoked,” Belden says, to learn that he planned to fight alongside the YPG.

The first phase of the Raqqa offensive was a mission to take Tal Saman, a satellite village of 10,000 people 17 miles north of Raqqa proper. “We pushed up to Tal Saman till we had it surrounded on a half circle,” Belden says, “then we just bombarded the shit out of it.” Refugees poured out of the village, seeking protection behind Kurdish lines. “Hundreds of civilians coming across for days in a row,” Belden says. At night, his unit stayed in whatever building they’d just taken, camped out on rooftops in the excruciating cold. “The first week we were out it was awful,” Belden says. The stepmother of a fellow volunteer from the U.S. had gotten Belden’s number. She kept texting to make sure they were eating enough.

The march on Raqqa slowed to a halt after two weeks, as the YPG consolidated its hold over a string of liberated villages. The YPG controls a region of 4 million people in northern Syria known as Rojava. Its tens of thousands of motivated fighters have been battling ISIS for five years. American as well as French warplanes have been covering their maneuvers with airstrikes for the past two, forcing ISIS off the roads and highways and open desert, and back into the urban strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. Now, the Kurds are kicking the door down in both cities.

But the YPG is not your typical ethnic or sectarian faction. Its fighters are loyal to an imprisoned guerrilla leader who was once a communist but now espouses the same kind of secular, feminist, anarcho-libertarianism as Noam Chomsky or the activists of Occupy Wall Street. The Kurds are implementing these ideals in Rojava, and that has attracted a ragtag legion of leftist internationals, like Belden, who have come from nearly every continent to help the YPG beat ISIS and establish an anarchist collective amid the rubble of the war – a “stateless democracy” equally opposed to Islamic fundamentalism and capitalist modernity. They call it the Rojava Revolution, and they want you.

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All Is Well in Lorien

Legolas x Reader

Loosely based off this from @imaginelegolas :

Imagine nervously telling Legolas your deepest fears, and having him comfort you over them


You turn away and slip through the trees. Galadriel is still talking to the fellowship, but you will not be missed. The news the fellowship brought is dire, a balrog hadn’t been seen for centuries and even hearing the name brings a shadow to your heart. It was fighting one of these creatures that your father died long ago. You take a deep breath and close your eyes. Immediately, flames, shadow, cries of terror flood your vision. Your eyes fly open and you stifle a cry. You thought you’d been rid of these visions for hundreds of years now. Who knew how long they’ll take to disappear this time?

You attempt to banish such thoughts from your mind and stare at the landscape around you. The moonlight flickers lightly through the golden leaves above, reflecting off the silver tree trunks. It is a sight to behold, though you find you’re thirsting to explore the other regions of middle earth again. As darkness covers the land, chances to do so are getting slimmer and slimmer. You don’t like to travel alone and your brothers, your usual travel companions, are busy guarding the realm against the increasingly common orks. For now, you suppose, you’ll have to settle for Lothlorien. The sight is beautiful after all, and if recent tales are true, even Lorien won’t be able to stand for much longer.

You turn to continue walking, trying not to close your eyes for long lest the visions take you again. You are so lost in concentration you barely notice as you pass a figure leaning against a tree.

“What troubles you?” a calm voice asks.

You start and turn back to the figure, then relax. It is Legolas of Mirkwood. Galadriel must have finished speaking to the fellowship. You shake your head, “It is nothing.”

Legolas straightens and takes a step closer to you, “I have seen many with your manner before. It is rarely nothing.”

You sigh and try to relax your shoulders, “It really is, my lord. I wouldn’t want to trouble you.”

“My lord?” Legolas tilts his head in confusion.

“You are a prince of Mirkwood, are you not? What else am I to call you?”

Legolas shrugs, “Simply… Legolas will suffice. What should I call you?”

“My name is (y/n).”

“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Now, to your earlier statement, it would be no trouble to me. Please, you are in pain.”

You sigh, “Your fellowship’s coming has brought a shadow on our forest. A balrog has awoken in Moria. I can’t say that doesn’t bring back old horrors to my mind.” You close your eyes again and shudder as the balrog’s fiery whip flashes before you.

“You have ill memories of this creature?”

“My father fell slaying one such beast. I was very young. I can only recall brief flashes, but they lurk in the shadows of my mind and grow till I can no more close my eyes without seeing them. In the worst of days they play before me even in my waking hours.” You press your eyes closed and a tear slips down your cheek. Your eyes fly open a second later as a gentle hand wipes it away.

“I am sorry our coming has brought this upon you.”

The tears begin to come faster now and Legolas hesitantly reaches out and pulls you toward his chest.

You wrap your arms around him and rest your head upon his shoulder, glad for the comfort. Legolas holds you tightly and silently.

Eventually as the tears slow, he speaks, “A balrog has awoken, it is true. But fear not, all is yet well in Lorien. A great wizard fell with the balrog into the chasm and I do not doubt there will be quite a battle before the end. Gandalf knows the plight of middle earth and has likely done all he can to prevent the balrog’s return. You also are under the protection of the Lady Galadriel. She will not let Lothlorien fall.”

Legolas lapses into silence and you breath deeply. His words are sincere, though based on uncertainty. Still, you find you are feeling better. Your tears begin to dry and your breathing returns to normal. Finally you relax and Legolas and you pull apart.

“Thank you,” you say softly.

Legolas smiles, “I hope my words have been of some comfort, though I’m afraid I must be off. The others will be wondering where I am.”

You nod and watch as he slips through the trees and is lost in the moonlight.

The night air blows softly in the breeze and you rub your eyes, suddenly tired. You glance to the left as you catch the nearly imperceptible footprints of an approaching elf. The elf steps through the trees and you recognize your brother, Indrilen.

“Hail, Brother.”

Indrilen nods and raises a hand in greeting.

“How are the borders?”

He shrugs, “Nothing significant, save our visitors. Did you have company? I thought I saw another figure from afar.”

You consider for a second, deciding there is no reason to hide the truth, “Legolas. He was out admiring the trees.”

Indrilen raises an eyebrow, “Of course. I’m sure that’s all he was admiring.”

You roll your eyes and give your brother a playful shove, “He was only being nice.”

“Oh! What did he say?”

“Nothing of the sort you’re thinking! We barely spoke,” you feel your cheeks become warm and you turn away, rubbing your tired eyes. As you close your eyes, you frown. This time, you see no vision of balrog fire. Instead, you find yourself staring at Him. You clearly see his straight blond hair and blue eyes. You also see his shy smile and strong shoulders. Confused, you blink and turn back toward your brother.

Indrilen laughs and shakes his head before noticing your serious expression, “Have the visions returned to you as well? Aerin retired early from the watch today.”

You bit your lip, remembering your older brother. Aerin had probably felt your father’s death the hardest and always had suffered the visions worst of all your siblings. “Yes… though they aren’t … bothering me currently.” You say hesitantly, still wondering at the change in visions.

“You are fortunate.” Indrilen sighs tiredly, “I’m afraid they’ve returned badly for me. I must rest now before they get any worse.”

You nod, distracted. “Tired though I am, I have much to think on. I will return to our telian later and I’ll try not to disturb you.”

“That is fine, though I’d feel better if you did not stay awake too long.”

“I am no longer a child, Indrilen.” You sigh. Indrilen is several hundred years older than you, but you have long since outgrown the need for supervision. “If it really means that much to you, then I will stay out but an hour.”

Indrilen nods and turns to leave. He walks silently and lightly, leaving behind no footprints.

Once he is gone you turn away and begin a walk of your own. You follow a familiar trail, barely noting the landscape around you. You pass several other elves as they wander, but pay them no attention. When finally you stop, you’ve gone quite a distance and are standing on the edge of a clearing where the trees still hide you in shadow.

On the other end of the clearing, the fellowship is ascending into the trees to sleep. The hobbits appear nervous to be so far off the ground, but Legolas climbs with ease. You watch them for a time, smiling at their interactions before you turn away. The fellowship have been through so much together and will need to rest in Lothlorien for a little while before they move on. Surprisingly, you now find yourself dreading the day they have to leave. When their coming had at first brought you so much grief. Shaking your head, you begin back the way you’d come. It’s amazing how much one encounter can change everything.

Most Popular (Naruto) Ships on LOFTER

LOFTER is a Tumblr-esque site that caters to Chinese-speaking fandom, and like Tumblr has its “Fandometrics”, Lofter also regularly releases stats on what the hot fandoms, ships, and characters are, both overall and by geographical category. When I opened up my LOFTER app recently, I got an alert because one of my subscribed tags (Kakashi) has dropped a place to #10 in most popular Japanese characters. Horrors!

The shipping landscape is really different in Chinese fandom. Lofter isn’t the be all and end all of Chinese fandom, but it’s worth taking a look at, because some niche pairs in Chinese fandom are huge in English fandom and vice versa.

You’ll notice that the list distinguishes between ships that have the same two people in them by “top”. I didn’t make this decision, please don’t yell at me about it. I’m just reproducing as is, for the sake of accuracy. Also I could not be bothered to look up the fandoms I don’t recognize.

Recent Top Japanese Fandom Ships on LOFTER

1. Victuuri
2. NaruSasu
3. Ereri
4. ObiKaka
5. something from Bungo Stray Dogs
6. SasuNaru
7. America x England from APH
8. HashiMada
9 and 10. more APH pairings

The other Naruto ships from further down the top 20.
13. TobiIzu
20. KakaObi

The absolute domination of ObiKaka came as a surprise to me when I first dipped a toe into Chinese speaking fandom, since in the English speaking shipping landscape it’s barely a thing. ObiKaka is roughly as popular as SNS, and it’s far and away the most popular Kakashi ship, by a staggering margin. Put it this way, if you add up KakaIru (90), KakaGai (23 + 47 GaiKaka), and KakaYama (29), you get roughly 200 works altogether on Lofter. In contrast, there are over 12,000 ObiKaka works on Lofter, and more getting added every day.

My Kakashi OTP, KakaSaku, isn’t very popular in Chinese speaking fandom… about 120 works on Lofter. KakaNaru is a relatively popular Kakashi ship, with over 700 works, but still doesn’t come close to ObiKaka. Basically it’s ObiKaka or GTFO.

Anyway, I just thought this was interesting and thought other people might too. :)

If people are interested I could also write about which characters are most popular or other things. Or you can ask me if you’re curious about how popular your OTP is.

2

Araknea Thornstalker- You’re going to need a bigger book….

Araknea Moonward- seen as an ill omen to both dragons and other beast clans. These araknea are raised from birth to be the personal elite guard of the Swarm Queen and rarely leave her side.

Might try recoloring them later *tilts head*, but the males are done for now. Hey I didn’t forget their jewelry this time! For reference, Araknea are the size of….. eeeh…………… Mirrors or Wildclaws? Around 5M.

On the front lines of Syria with the young American radicals fighting ISIS

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/american-anarchists-ypg-kurdish-militia-syria-isis-islamic-state-w466069

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/american-anarchists-ypg-kurdish-militia-syria-isis-islamic-state-w466069

On the morning of his first battle, Brace Belden was underdressed for the cold and shaky from a bout of traveler’s diarrhea. His Kurdish militia unit was camped out on the front line with ISIS, 30 miles from Raqqa, in Syria. Fighters stood around campfires of gas-soaked trash, boiling water for tea, their only comfort besides tobacco. “I’ve never been so dirty in my life,” Belden recalls. When the time came to roll out, he loaded a clip into his Kalashnikov and climbed into a makeshift battlewagon, a patchwork of tank and truck parts armored with scrap metal and poured concrete. Belden took a selfie inside its rusty cabin and posted it online with the caption “Wow this freakin taxi stinks.”

The rest of the militia piled into an assortment of minivans, garbage trucks and bulldozers, and rode south into territory ISIS had held for more than three years. Belden was manning a swivel-mounted machine gun, the parched landscape barely visible through the rising dust, when he spotted a car packed with explosives revving across the desert toward the Kurdish column. Before he could shoot, an American fighter jet lacerated the sky and an explosion erupted where the car had been, shaking the earth for miles around.

It was November 6th, 2016. The Kurdish militia known as the YPG – a Kurmanji acronym for People’s Protection Units – had commenced a major offensive to liberate the city that serves as the global headquarters for ISIS. The YPG was backed by U.S. air power and fighting alongside a coalition of Arab and Assyrian militias. Also within their ranks, though scantly reported, was a group of about 75 hardcore leftists, anarchists and communists from Europe and America, Belden among them, fighting to defend a socialist enclave roughly the size of Massachusetts.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/american-anarchists-ypg-kurdish-militia-syria-isis-islamic-state-w466069