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Coal Mining
Coal Mining
by Cantrill, T. C
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid little collection of descriptions and explanations, 8 Jan 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Coal Mining (Paperback)
Written during the 1910s, this book provides details of the coal mining industry as it was at the time of its publication. I'm not sure that there's much that has been missed out here, despite the work not being very lengthy. I found its descriptions of the pit workings put forward with pleasant simplicity, which cannot be overstated when you consider the complexity of some of the other books on the topic.

It deals with boring techniques; methods and problems with both water pumping and winding; the regional variations in working the coal at the face; and also explains the technicalities of royalty payments to landowners and terms of wayleave and the like. As there is no generic explanation of how a coal mine would work and operate, it does a good job of describing how pits might be organised given the different circumstances that may be encountered, which is helpful for those who need a more specific understanding.

The 1910s were a period of change in the coal industry, and it is interesting to read a text from the time when these changes were coming about. The substitution of steam power in favour of electricity was a particularly profound development, which is dealt with in this book.

Certainly for anyone writing a thesis or conducting any sort of study in to the enterprise of mining coal in the early twentieth century this is essential reading.


Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (Xbox 360)
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (Xbox 360)
Offered by Mayflower Stores
Price: 8.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative, 26 Dec 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
I suppose it would be appropriate to begin by describing the campaign, though I shall keep it short. Call of Duty refugees will find the storyline gripping, and will enjoy the realism of the fire-fights in the game. Some of the battles are truly tense, and require you to actually think instead of running out into the open all-guns blazing. I particularly liked the ending of the game, which is original and probably better experienced than described.

The game comes into its own with the online multiplayer. Some serious time and thought has been put into creatinging this multiplayer experience, and there is very little fault that can be found with it. As some have said, it is an alternative to Call of Duty, but in my opinion it is far more than that: it is light years ahead of any Call of Duty title. I tend to prefer the "Conquest" mode, which is essentially a capture the flag style game. Teams of up to a dozen start on opposing ends of the map, and there is a rush to take the fire-bases and raise your flag (either Russian or US). Vehicles play a huge part, and require a great deal of teamwork: one player to drive a tank and fire the main gun, while another fires the minigun; one player flies a helicopter and fires missiles while a second takes control of the cannon. There are gunboats, hum-vees, Land Rovers and quad bikes to be enjoyed, too. The maps are very large, about a mile or two long, and so it takes a while to travel about on foot in some cases.

There is a completely different style of play compared to Call of Duty, and you are required to earn your kills by thinking tactically, rather than just blasting incessantly with a shotgun and then being awarded some silly attack helicopter that kills the entire enemy team ten times over. Some of the online battles I have had have been nigh on breathtaking, and there is almost a feeling of satisfaction when your team blows up a building and wins the moment.

I think with Battlefield: Bad Company 2 there is a different style of player: many times someone has pulled over in a tank to let me in; dropped me an ammo box out of courtesy, and likewise a med-kit. Last week someone even landed their helicopter to pick me up. Is this just me noticing silly things? Or is it a sign that this game is played by a better standard of mature gamer, and does not allow ten year old children to find their niche "quick-sniping" someone while jumping from a building?

Some have complained that it is too hard starting out online when you have no gadgets and specials, and perhaps there is some weight to that argument; but when you eventually earn them by levelling up you are a better player for it. And you could just be a big cheat and buy all the weapons and gadgets on the marketplace without waiting to level up.

This is one of the best online games of the decade, and I imagine it will remain so for quite some time to come.


Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360)
Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360)
Offered by funfair games
Price: 11.50

31 of 40 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Same mistakes!!, 26 Dec 2010
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
I was considering not buying the game because I remember being disappointed with Treyarch's "World at War"; but I asked for it for Christmas nonetheless. I thought that if I didn't like the mulitplayer and the campaign then at least I could have a quick blast on the zombie missions.

There are some improvements: the guns actually sound like real guns now; on the campaign you don't have to dodge innumerable grenades during each mission; and the graphics are much improved from World at War.

However, I find that's where the good news comes to an end. The multiplayer is, in my opinion, nearly unplayable; how many bullets does it take to kill someone? If two (or even three) enemies are coming at you you can forget taking them both down with a skilful couple of bursts, which I remember was a frustrating fault of World at War. But what I really despise about this game is the spawning; you can be happily sat somewhere sniping or picking off a few soldiers running across some open ground in front of you, only to find that the man you have just killed has re-spawned right behind you and stabbed you before having time to react. Utterly shambolic!

The campaign is mediocre, and doesn't really build on past titles. Sadly, the fun has been taken out of the zombie missions, too. I think the Call of Duty series has run its course because this is just boring. Of course, there is an army of fan-boys out there who give this game such praise you'd think Jesus designed it; I think if they released a cheese and onion pastie with a Call of Duty stamp on it it would still manage to be an international sensation.

Save yourself a wad of cash and buy either Call of Duty 4, which is still very much the best FPS, or enjoy the highly underrated Battlefield Bad Company 2.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 7, 2011 7:03 PM GMT


Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics)
Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics)
by Herman Melville
Edition: Paperback
Price: 1.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointed, 26 Nov 2010
I've read a lot of books in my time, and though I've read many bad ones, I don't think I've ever felt as let down by any as much as Moby Dick. When I first started reading, and Ishmael was at the port readying to set sail on the Pequod, I was almost salivating with anticipation at the prospect of embarking on a truly epic tale. I really thought then that Moby Dick was going to be one of those "once in a century" stories, that would never be matched. Sadly, and I do mean sadly, I found this not to be the case.

After the third or fourth chapter, the novel steadily goes downhill, and the story all but disappears for considerable portions of the book. Melville describes at great length the whaling industry and each species of whale inhabiting the ocean, information which would be much more at home in a non-fiction work than a novel; and I think had this turned up upon the desk of a modern publisher it would have been thrown into the waste paper basket without a second thought.

As the novel progresses, and I think it is beyond halfway through that the story emerges again, the main character, Ishmael, is completely sidelined from the narration, with the story following Captain Ahab and other crew members.

Having said that, the story does continue and finishes somewhat satisfactorily, but I couldn't help feeling very let down by something that had outrageous potential.


Centurion [DVD]
Centurion [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Fassbender
Price: 4.25

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Negative reviews are unfounded!, 11 Sep 2010
This review is from: Centurion [DVD] (DVD)
I watched this movie simply because of its director, Mr Neil Marshall. I find that historical films such as this are handled terribly badly, perhaps with the exception of Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven; but Marshall has created a fine piece of film here. I was immensely impressed by his 2002 film, Dog Soldiers, and I was keen to see if he could continue his success. I was not disappointed!

Firstly it should be said that from the beginning there is an atmosphere about this film, an atmosphere that feels genuine and feels every bit Roman. All too often what were are given with historical films is awful American actors playing soldiers, the usual cheese, and any sense of realism diluted by a 21st century mindset. Not with Centurion: it is, for the most part, historically accurate; has fantastic acting (by actors who actually look the part); and the storyline isn't the slightest bit far-fetched.

The story basically follows the plight of the IX Legion heading north into Scotland to deal with the troublesome Picts. The Legion is destroyed by an ambush in the woods, having been led into a trap by their scout, a Pict woman who they believed to have defected to them. A small band of survivors led by Quintus Dias take it upon themselves to go in search of their captured general, but failing to save him, are forced to brave the elements of the Scottish highlands, and find a way back to Roman lines. They are pursued throughout by the woman who had betrayed them, Etain, and gradually their little group is reduced.

They come across a young girl living alone in the woods, who, accused of witchcraft by her people, had been forced into a life of solitude. The girl helps the men on their way by directing them to the nearest Roman fort, which they find to have been destroyed. Here the men make battle with their pursuers, and kill Etain and her followers. Upon eventually reaching Hadrian's Wall, which is under construction, Quintus, who is now the sole survivor, believes to have found safety. I will not go on to spoil the film's ending.

The criticisms of this film are centred on over-acting, which I can assure you there is none of; and too much violence -- but who is suggesting that the work of a Roman Legion was not disgracefully brutal? It all adds to make the film more convincing in my view. The battle in the woods was fantastically worked, and anyone would have thought Marshall had been at Lake Trasimene taking notes during Rome's most infamous defeat at the hands of an ambush. I think I would even go as far as saying that the film does justice to the average Roman soldier.

This is British film making at its finest, and if this is the level it is currently at, then long may it continue.


Outpost [2008] [DVD]
Outpost [2008] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ray Stevenson
Offered by FUNTIME MEDIA
Price: 3.18

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly surprising, 28 Aug 2010
This review is from: Outpost [2008] [DVD] (DVD)
I think everyone has a soft spot for budget horror films, but at the same time I don't think we expect much more from them than a bit of action, violence and fun. With Outpost, however, there is something rather original about it, and you quickly realise that this isn't quite like other mundane horror flicks.

A group of mercenaries are commissioned to accompany a scientist to an old Nazi bunker, which curiously has not been looted. It is soon realised that something is afoot when bodies are discovered inside, and even a 'survivor', who is apparently in a vegetative state. Fire-fights soon start taking place at the surface, between the mercenaries and an unknown foe, and strange things begin happening underground. Cutting the story short, basically what the bunker contains is Nazi super soldiers, who don't very much like visitors.

Fantastic action scenes throughout, and some damn scary moments when the lights go out and Nazi zombies start creeping around everywhere. Quality stuff; much recommended.


A history of Coal Mining in Great Britain
A history of Coal Mining in Great Britain
by Robert Lindsay Galloway
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.99

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique, 28 Aug 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Written in the 1880s, this book covers the annals of coal mining history as far back as the medieval period. Of course, developments in the industry up until the 1710s were few, and thence the majority of the book focuses on the Industrial Revolution. The narrative style of the book is fantastic, and reads much more pleasantly than most of the text books and reference material we have at our disposal today.

It covers the principal developments in the industry, such as the coming of the steam engine, improved winding techniques, and the advent of the steel mill and Sir Humphrey Davy's Safety Lamp. No history of coal mining would be complete without reference to the human cost of the enterprise, and Galloway talks in detail about some of the great explosions of the day, and the strive made by colliery proprietors to seek solutions for the terrible dangers. Several of the anecdotes and instances described by Galloway, as far as I am aware, are solely unique to this work, and accounts for many subsequent writers on the subject referring to his work frequently.

Usefully for anyone with a keener interest on the actual running of the pits, there is good description of the layout of the shafts, which I often find can be dreadfully confusing for someone who is not familiar with coal works. The development of machinery and methods employed to pump out the ever-present water, and lifting the coal (and workers) from the shafts is given much attention, too.

This work is essential reading for all concerned with the subject, though it should be noted that with the book being published in 1882, there is no reference to the important later developments in coal mining, such as the widespread introduction of electricity.


Avatar (DVD + Blu-ray)
Avatar (DVD + Blu-ray)
Dvd ~ Sam Worthington
Price: 7.00

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars MASSIVELY overrated, 28 Aug 2010
This review is from: Avatar (DVD + Blu-ray) (Blu-ray)
I was disappointed with this movie, because with Steven Spielberg comparing it to the release of the Star Wars movies thirty years ago, I was expecting an awesome sci-fi epic.

Indeed, most of the film's positive reviews came with regards to its special effects -- which I must confess are fantastic. But for a film to stand above all the rest I need more than just pretty colours and images; and I don't feel this film went very much further than that.

James Cameron needs to have a sit down and read the basics of plot construction: avoid cliches like the plague! The whole film is a cliche in my view: the plot is based on the Indian Wars of the nineteenth century; the technology is a rip off of the Xbox game Halo Wars; and is anyone else as tired as I am of that cheesey American wit and sarcasm? It is riddled, too, with references to current issues, not least the human nack for destroying things -- give us a break, James.

I think it might have a gone a little easier if the budget was given to a lesser known director. This could have been an epic that stood the test of time, but sadly it's just a load of tosh like most of the other films currently showing at the cinema at the moment.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 1, 2010 11:13 AM BST


Life in the Victorian Brickyards of Flintshire and Denbighshire
Life in the Victorian Brickyards of Flintshire and Denbighshire
by Andrew Connolly
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.12

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent work, 5 May 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
What impressed me most about this book was the amount of information presented about the smaller industries in the Flintshire and Denbighshire areas. Quite how Andrew Connolly managed to find out anything about some of the various brickworks and collieries described in this book is nothing short of astonishing. I've certainly found myself looking at the areas described with a different perspective; some of the quietest areas of countryside were, to my surprise, once thriving centres of industry, but all trace has since disappeared under vegetation.

I bought the book because I needed to know, for the purposes of writing a dissertation, more about the Argoed Colliery of Mold. There was a fantastic account of its life and also some useful primary sources, information which I am confident in assuming cannot be found elsewhere.

I confess I have not read the book fully yet, for there is a great deal here, but it has impressed me very much so far. I certainly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the collieries and brickyards of the district. Connolly has made an unfathomable amount of research into the subject, and this book is an invaluable asset to the local historian.


Call of Duty: World at War (Xbox 360)
Call of Duty: World at War (Xbox 360)
Offered by Super-bargains
Price: 13.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Would be an awful title without the Zombies, 21 April 2010
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
I thought this game was an enormous disappointment when compared with Call of Duty 4. The graphics are terrible in comparison, the guns are awful and with most it's impossible to aim properly because they bounce around so much.

The online play is depressingly frustrating; the weapons, as I have said, are terrible, and enemy players are a lot harder to kill than CoD4, so often you find you are shooting someone and they can just keep running and stab you. The spawning is an utter mess, and if you don't watch it you find 4 enemy players suddenly appearing next to you. The sniper rifles are a joke; you can aim the crosshairs over an enemy player and shoot ten times and not hit them. I think cheating is a major problem online, too, a lot of players tend to have significant advantages over everyone else; but I don't know much about methods of unfair play so I may be wrong.

The campaign is stupid; that beach landing on the first level is just a blatant copy of the D-Day landing on a certain other title! It's not as open as CoD4, most of the campaign levels tend to channel you down a set route, and so other than shooting who is in front of you you don't need to think all that much.

But what makes CoDWaW a success is the Nazi Zombies missions, especially the more recent additions downloadable from Xbox Live. You can't beat survival orientated scenarios where you just have to keep going until your inevitable demise. When all players work together and organise themselves you can have games lasting well over an hour fending off thousands of zombies, and it becomes tense! I love Nazi Zombies it's one of the best game 'extras'.


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