Vaguely Interesting Round-up | 6 January 2013

  • A strangely poignant portrait of the last of the Ninjas in Japan from the BBC News’s magazine.
  • A brave new world for the future south London with the Nine Elms redevelopment and the relocation of the US Embassy to Battersea.
  • Each Christmas the Economist publishes a special double edition, featuring the usual articles from around the world but also adding an eclectic and fascinating mixture of longer form pieces on a dazzling array of subjects. My favourites from this year’s editions include:
    • a visitor’s guide to Hell with a detailed history of how the everlasting fires of damnation have been portrayed in literature, religion and mythology: Into everlasting fire and A very rough guide.
    • an introduction to the Spartathalon and a meditation on the appeals of ultra ultra-endurance races: The lunacy of the long-distance runner.
    • the war in Latin America that saw up to 90% of the male population of Paraguay killed: The never-ending war.
    • the Scottish con-man who convinced hundreds of people to part with their money and, ultimately, some with their lives in a mad cap colonisation scheme in Panama: The king of con-men.