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Sunday, April 30, 2017


The first two short stories reviewed (below) appear in the anthology (above)
that is available at Amazon Books.
ThoughtCo. is an brand and part of the IAC family of websites.

GUEST BLOG / Analysis compiled by Catherine Sustana, Thought Co.--There are certain authors who manage to put into words the nearly unspeakable experience of war.

Ambrose Bierce is well known for his short stories of the American Civil War, particularly "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." With stories like "The Things They Carried" and "How to Tell a True War Story," Tim O'Brien became the voice of soldiers who had served in Vietnam, and his stories are widely anthologized.

The lengthy war in Iraq has already spawned bountiful memoirs, poems, and short stories. So far, many of the stories seem to focus on soldiers' difficulty coming home and readjusting to life in the U.S. Others focus on the challenges families face when their fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives are deployed.

The United States withdrew its military personnel from Iraq by the end of 2011. It is hard to say which stories and authors will come to definitively represent the Iraq war in years to come, but the three exceptional contemporary war stories here are certainly some of the finest.

"Redeployment" by Phil Klay

Phil Klay's "Redeployment" begins with these chilling lines:
"We shot dogs. Not by accident. We did it on purpose, and we called it 'Operation Scooby.' I'm a dog person, so I thought about that a lot."

Author, Phil Klay
Throughout the story, the narrator struggles to reconcile his actions in Iraq with his life back the U.S., where he comes home to his own beloved but severely aged dog.

When I first read the title of the story, I thought I understood what it would be about. But "Redeployment" is far more complex than I had anticipated. Its elegant bluntness will leave you pondering for a long time.

Phil Klay is a former marine who served as a Public Affairs Officer in Iraq from January 2007 to February 2008. He received his MFA from Hunter College.

"Redeployment" was originally published in Granta magazine, where the full text is available online to subscribers. The story is also included in an anthology called Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War.

But the best bet might be to read "Redeployment" in Klay's collection by the same name, which won the prestigious 2014 National Book Award in fiction.

"New Me" by Andrew Slater
Like "Redeployment," "New Me" is a story about coming home. The narrator, struggling to overcome a brain injury, enters civilian life passively, with the people around him struggling to prop him up in a "normal" life.

To get him a job, his girlfriend has been telling everyone they're engaged, which effectively makes them engaged. The narrator's new boss has clearly created a fake job for him motivated by some combination of pity and respect. Soon the girlfriend is planning the wedding and their future children.

Author, Andrew Slater
Not surprisingly, neither the job nor the relationship can last. But what's really special about this story -- and bear with me here -- is the dream sequences. Usually, I don't care much for dream sequences. But in Slater's story, the landscape of Iraq and the landscape of the United States are snugly overlaid on each other. In one dream:

"The Arby's front window was spider-webbed with bullet holes. A shopping cart from Sears sat by the entrance, filled with artillery shells and sweaters with a wire running up to the ceiling. There were mannequins at the registers wearing Arby's uniforms and suicide vests. It smelled like someone was cooking fries."

The surreal incongruity of sweaters and artillery shells -- of Belk's and the Tigris River -- may be the closest that a civilian like me will ever come to understanding the experience that soldiers must have when coming home. That alone makes the story worth reading.

Andrew Slater was an infantry and Special Forces officer in the U.S. Army from 2000 - 2010. He deployed twice to Afghanistan and three times to Iraq. He holds an MFA from Columbia University, and he currently teaches English at the American University in Sulaimani, Iraq.

"New Me" was originally published in Epiphany magazine's war issue. Like "Redeployment," the story is also included in Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War.

"Refresh, Refresh" by Benjamin Percy
Benjamin Percy's "Refresh, Refresh" isn't about soldiers -- it's about their families. The story follows two teenage boys in a rural town in Oregon where nearly all the fathers have enlisted in the reserves for what they call "beer pay." But when their battalion is sent to Iraq, the town empties out. Percy writes:

Author, Benjamin Percy
"Our fathers -- our coaches, our teachers, our barbers, our cooks, our gas-station attendants and UPS deliverymen and deputies and firemen and mechanics -- our fathers, so many of them, climbed onto the olive-green school buses and pressed their palms to the windows and gave us the bravest, most hopeful smiles you can imagine and vanished. Just like that."

An undercurrent of violence and despair runs through the story as the boys get beaten up by bullies, beat each other up to practice their fighting skills, gut deer, and take their revenge on those they feel have wronged them.

It is a brilliant, moving, deeply disturbing story about what happens -- almost inevitably, it seems -- to these boys in the absence of their fathers. 

The entire text of "Refresh, Refresh" is available for free online at The Paris Review.

The story has also appeared in Percy's collection by the same name, in Best American Short Stories 2006, and in The Pushcart Prize XXXI (2007).


Saturday, April 29, 2017


To many there’s one festival that outshines all others.  Cue the accordion and mandolin music. That being the Gelato Festival, which is on tour just in time for the summer heat, stopping in 12 Italian cities between now and October.

Gelato pilgrims will be able to watch gelato makers at work, taste and vote for their favorite flavors, and sample a special flavor in each city, including Nutella and a mango-kiwi-strawberry combination. There will also be opportunities to learn how gelato is produced and participate in gelato-making classes. Locations include Rome, Naples, Florence, and Torino.

Note: Dates have not been confirmed; please check the official event website for updates.

It all started with Bernardo Buontalenti (1531-1608), who invented ice cream in Florence, Italy.  Why hasn't this man been canonized?

Here are a few of the 12 cities, where the 2017 Gelato Festival will appear in Europe.

Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream made in an Italian style. Gelato is made with a base of milk, cream, and sugar, and flavored with fruit and nut purees and other flavorings.  To grasp the true meaning of Gelato, this blog has gone to great lengths to define Gelato by reaching out to a recognized world expert in deliciousness: the Morelli Gelato family, which has been making Gelato since 1907.  Five generations after being founded (in England) by Italian immigrant Guiseppe Morelli, the Morelli’s have expanded with locations in London, Dubai, Bahrain, Manila, Dammam, Kuala Lumpur, Broadstairs (Kent, UK), Tbilisi, Monaco, Kuwait, Dallas and Libreville (Gabon).


GUEST BLOG / By Morelli’s Gelato--What is the difference between gelato and ice cream?

Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, so you could argue that gelato and ice cream are the same. However we all know that there’s a big difference between the soft, smooth texture and clean taste of gelato compared to American-style ice cream's heavier, richer texture? So why the difference? It comes down to these factors: fat, sugar, air and serving temperature.

Firstly, let us explain how all ice cream/gelato is made. All ice cream is mostly water, and as we all know as water freezes it forms hard, crunchy ice crystals. The goal of ice cream making is keeping those crystals as small as possible through added ingredients and technique (and of course creating great flavour!). Ice cream makers manage this crystallisation in the following ways:

Fat - If fat (ie milk or cream) is emulsified into the base mix it becomes mixed in between the water molecules and literally gets in the way of ice as it freezes.

Sugar - This also forms a physical barrier to the crystallisation process. When sugar is dissolved into water it forms a syrup which has a lower freezing point than plain water and the higher the concentration of sugar the lower the freezing point becomes. As water starts to freeze in a syrup the unfrozen water becomes a more concentrated syrup. With reducing temperatures this process continues until eventually you have small ice crystals in a syrup so concentrated it will never freeze

Air - This is incorporated into ice cream during the churning process. A more aerated ice cream has a fluffier, less dense texture.

The temperature ice cream is stored at also has effect: colder ice creams are harder and more solid, while warmer ones are softer, with a looser texture. We’ll talk about this more later on.

There are some other tricks to keep ice cream soft, such as alcohol, starch, protein (in egg and milk), and natural stabilisers like guar gum and carageenan, but the top four above are the main factors for all ice creams.

The difference between ice cream and gelato Compared to today's American-style ice cream gelato has less fat in the base and less air churned into it during the freezing process.

American-style ice creams are generally heavy on cream, and have a fat content of at least 10% (which can be considerably higher in most homemade and many premium versions).

Gelato uses more milk than cream, so it doesn't have nearly as much fat.

American-style ice creams are churned quickly to whip in plenty of air (called overrun) which is helped by the high proportion of cream in the base. Most luxury ice creams have an overrun of around 25% which means they've increased the mix in volume by 25%. Cheaper commercial versions can run from 50% to over 90%, which gives them a light, thin, fast-melting texture with less flavour as in reality you are eating mostly air!

Gelato is churned at a much slower speed, which introduces less air into the base. So, you get more pleasure per mouthful with gelato!

All these differences give gelato a dense, milky texture that's less creamy than the fat heavy American-style ice creams.

Gelato has a more intense flavour than ice cream, since it has less cold fat that coats the tongue and gets in the way of tasting things. Gelato's flavours come through directly and quickly then melt away, leaving a clean mouth.

Serving Temperature So if gelato has less fat and air than ice cream, you may wonder why it isn’t hard? It's because of the last big factor; temperature.

Gelato is best served at a slightly higher temperature than ice cream. If you freeze gelato really cold, it will become very hard. However, when it is ‘warmer’ it has a perfect soft consistency. If you stored ice cream at the same warmer temperature, it would melt and become watery as the high fat in water emulsion would melt too fast.

That’s why we recommend that our gelato is best eaten in store, as it is freshly made and held and served at the correct temperature. If you do wish to take away a litre of our ice cream to enjoy at home, we suggest you let the gelato stand for 30 minutes after removing from the freezer in order for it to ‘warm up’ to the correct serving temperature.


Friday, April 28, 2017


Photo: Jerome Meyer
GUEST BLOG / By Mike Shess, Publisher, West Coaster craft beer website and print magazine.
Once a year, usually in the Fall, as in 2016, West Coaster craft beer website and print magazine publishes the results of its Readers’ Poll.  Publisher Mike Shess and Editor Ryan Lamb ask readers to vote for their favorites among the following categories:
         Best San Diego Beer
         Best San Diego Brewery
         Best Brewmaster
         Best Brew Pub
         Best Homebrewer
         Best Tasting Room
         Best New Beer Spot
         BEST BEER BAR
         Best Beer Restaurant
         Best San Diego IPA
         Best Beer Region within San Diego County
         Best Beer Festival
         Best Bottleshop
         Best Beer Selection
         Most Underrated Brewery

For the next few weeks, daily online magazine in its weekly The Brewspaper column will profile on “Best of” from West Coaster’s annual poll. 

This week Part 6:
Hamilton’s/South Park
        Dark, cozy and boasting high quality lineups on meticulously clean lines, there’s a reason this bar was named in two categories from previous years. Earning the title of Best Beer Bar in 2014 and Best Tap Selection / Rotation in 2015, we’re not surprised that our readers once again picked Hammie’s as the Best Beer Bar in San Diego. If you’re reading these words and haven’t been to Hamilton’s, we strongly recommend you do so. If you don’t mind crowds, go to the monthly tap takeover event, featuring a free meal, every second Saturday.