October 6, 2011

Hard Tack and Coffee

September and so far October have been brutal. Work on the layout has again been stalled by the outbreak of a nasty cold that struck both my wife and I.  We've been under the weather for over a week now. On the bright side it allowed me to catch up on some book reading and movie watching. I watched three movies, The Expendables, Ironclad and Valkyrie. None were ACW related. Of the three I would recommend Ironclad as long as you are not squeamish. It is about the activities of King John and a band of warriors after the signing of the Magna Charta. It is loosely based on an historical event and is a good swords and castles flick.

Valkyrie is a depressing look at life in Nazi Germany surrounding the plots to kill Adolph Hitler. It was well done, but not as gripping as the earlier film Downfall. The German government cooperated to an certain extent with the making of Valkyrie and they insisted on historical accuracy. It stars Tom Cruise as Col Staufenberg, the leader of the assassination effort. In a side note, Dan Snyder, the owner of the Redskins football team, is the producer.

Stallone's The Expendables was pretty much a waste of time with a shallow story and cartoon violence. Don't bother.

I also watched two documentaries, Beer Wars and Marwencol. Both were available on Netflix streaming. Beer Wars is an insider look at the beer business. Surprise - big business controls it - duh! Marwencol is quirky but remarkable story that left me feeling a bit melancholy. I won't tell you more as you can see for yourself.

As to books, I want to recommend a neat little book called Hard Tack and Coffee: The Unwritten Story of Army Life by  John Davis Billings. This book is jammed full of stories and detail about what civil war camp life was like. The illustrations and textual descriptions provide numerous great ideas for creating and detailing scenes on the layout. It is available free from Google Books here. Or you can order a bound paper copy from Amazon here. I got a copy at the local close out sale at Borders.


  1. I watched the first part of Valkyrie, to see how (well) they handled the scenes in North Africa. I've read a lot about the 20 July plot so unfortunately I know the story pretty well, and it's not pretty (in either execution - the planners made a lot of dumb mistakes) or aftermath.

  2. The North Africa scenes were not the best aspect of the film. The scenes in Germany and Prussia were very authentic looking.