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Spring officially arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday when Japan's weather agency announced the start of the cherry blossom season.

Forecasters watching trees at the capital's central Yasukuni Shrine said the city's first blossoms had appeared there, marking the beginning of two weeks in which Tokyo's parks, temple grounds, schools and streets will explode in pinks and whites.

"Cherry blossom is a good gauge to let us know that spring is here," a Japan Meteorological Agency official said, adding that this year's first blossoms had appeared at the usual time.

Japanese culture prizes the perfect but delicate blossom, whose transience -- they only last a week -- is seen as a reminder of the fragility of life.

 

 

 

 

Star Trek actor Chris Pine pleaded guilty Monday to drink driving in New Zealand and had his licence suspended for six months, reports said.

Pine, 33, was charged after he failed a breath test this month in the South Island town of Methven, where he had been attending a party after completing the science fiction film Z for Zachariah, New Zealand Newswire reported.

 

 

 

 

In a London basement, cutting-edge technology is being used to make a computerised Sandra Bullock climb into her rocket. But the team who put her there in "Gravity" have spent the morning working with more basic tools of the trade -- syrup, cheese and chocolate.

"We're trying to create a melting flesh effect for the new Tom Cruise movie," said Richard Graham, visual effects project manager at Framestore, the British company that has helped "Gravity" collect 10 Oscar nominations.

"Golden syrup and chocolate make really good blood if you mix them with lots of red food colouring," Graham told AFP in an interview at Framestore's sprawling studios, behind the facade of an ordinary-looking office block in the Soho district of central London.

 

"We've also been blow-torching different cheeses to make them bubble. Burger cheese didn't work that well because the fat content's not high enough. Mature English cheddar was a lot better."

The sticky mess of foodstuffs will appear for only a fleeting moment, grafted digitally onto the actors' skin, in the forthcoming movie "End of Tomorrow".

But that's nothing unusual for Graham and the other visual effects (VFX) artists who spent a painstaking three and a half years creating the stunning computer-generated space vistas of "Gravity".

Framestore staff toiled for a year building a digital replica of the International Space Station (ISS) -- and then tore their hair out trying to work out how to blow it up.

Tim Webber, the film's VFX supervisor, remembers feeling exhausted after the very first meeting with director Alfonso Cuaron.

 

"So much about it was so different to any film before," Webber told AFP. "The massive involvement of visual effects changed everything about the film-making process."

An extremely complex shoot saw Bullock and co-star George Clooney spend hours suspended in rigging at Shepperton Studios, west of London, or else trapped in a cage filled with two million tiny LEDs designed to simulate the harsh light of space.

Time Magazine named this innovative "lightbox" as one of their top inventions of 2013. But like the cheese in "End of Tomorrow", other VFX tricks used in "Gravity" were more rudimentary.

"We had someone hit Sandra Bullock over the head with a broomstick," Webber recalled.

"She was supposed to be flying down the ISS and bumping into the walls, so we had to get her to react as if she'd bumped into something. There was a lot of low-tech stuff going on alongside the high-tech stuff."

 

 Battersea Park – Friday 16, Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 August 2013

Foodies Festival is delighted to add a NEW festival of food and drink to their UK calendar – FEAST at Battersea Park, this summer’s essential celebration of food and drink.  The exciting new event invitesLondon’s foodies to experience an exclusive picnic extravaganza featuring the UK’s largest selection of restaurant, street and artisan food available in one place.

Visitors to FEAST can dine on every conceivable type of food from the pop-up restaurants, street food vendors, artisan producers, farmers’ market, vintage tea rooms, seaside food stalls and BBQ tents, washing it all down with wines, ciders and ales from the Vineyard and Orchard.

Ten of London’s most talked-about chefs and restaurants including BoqueriaSupper ClubMazi and Mango Tree are popping-up at FEAST each serving a different style of food for visitors to enjoy on huge feasting tables in the magnificent FEAST Tent at the heart of the festival.

Boqueria, who were voted Good Food Guide’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’ for London 2013, and Time Out’s ‘Best New Cheap Eats’ in 2012, said: “We're delighted to be part of the Feast Festival, it's an amazing way to connect with our customers and for people to get to know about us. It's also huge fun for our kitchen to be outside cooking and preparing things from scratch in front of an audience, cant wait”

MAIN FEATURES

POP-UP RESTAURANTS – choose from ten diverse London restaurants serving their signature dishes all day long and sit down to tuck in at the magnificent feasting tent at the heart of the festival.

CHEFS’ THEATRE – eat the food, and then learn how to make it with dozens of demos over the weekend featuring top chefs including 2012 MasterChef champion Shelina Permalloo, Salt Yard’s Ben Tish,Saturday Kitchen regular José Pizarro and Pizza Pilgrims - the perfect pit-stop between dishes.

FEAST FARM – chill with a glass of British artisan ale or enjoy a cream tea from the vintage tea pagoda on the FEAST Farm, then work it all off with some barn dancing and ranch skills classes and demos with live animals.


BBQ ARENA – enjoy a hog-roast, watch the hourly BBQ classes or compete against fellow festival-goers in the Man vs Meat competitions.


FOODIES BY THE SEA – escape to the seaside and relax on a deckchair at the FEAST beach and enjoy entertainment including Punch and Judy, sand art and fire dancing.  The nearby seaside food huts offer top-notch British beach-food including cockles, mussels and artisan ice-creams including Custom Creams liquid-nitrogen organic ice-creams and sorbets.

STREET FOOD AVENUE - serving a huge selection of ready-to-eat hot and cold food from around the world including exotic meats, tapas, churros, burritos, Moroccan tagines, South American prime beef, sausages, pizza, Jamaican and Thai street food plus London’s favourite, Jun Tanaka’s Street Kitchen.

FARMERS’ MARKET – FEAST has brought together a superb selection of artisan producers selling and sampling everything from sauces, pickles and jams, to cakes, cured meats and chocolate.  The market area incorporates a cookware section where passionate home-cooks can indulge in some retail therapy.

THE VINEYARD – selling a unique selection of wine and champagne from around the world, and featuring an open-air theatre with hourly tastings and masterclasses from the experts, The Vineyard is a wine-lovers paradise.

THE ORCHARD - celebrate great British cider and ales in The Orchard.  Sample and buy direct from the producers.

MASTERCLASSES – learn how to make sushicocktails and truffles at the hourly masterclasses in the dedicated tents throughout the site – sign up on entry.

CHILDREN’S COOKERY THEATRE – FEAST is a family-friendly festival where children are encouraged to get involved and learn more about eating and cooking healthy food at these regular hands-on cookery sessions.


PING PONG ZONE – arguably the best outdoor game of the summer.


THE SPEAKEASY – escape the crowds and listen to chilled beats from top DJs with a cocktail in the FEAST speakeasy.  Discover the password to get in.

VIP TENT – VIP tickets holders can relax with a glass of champagne and collect their goody bags at the Bedouin-themed tent and garden.

ENTERTAINMENT STAGEno festival would be complete without good music and the FEAST stage showcases an eclectic mix of acts playing jazz, soul, blues, acoustic and R&B throughout the 3-day event.

FEAST at Battersea Park is open from 11am until 9pm.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Ticket Information

FEAST Festival tickets are now available from www.foodiesfestival.com or by calling 0844 995 1111.

Tickets:
1-day adult ticket £22.00 (£18.00 concession)
1-day child ticket £10.00 (Age 13-18)
1-day VIP ticket £48.00

VIP tickets include a free glass of champagne on arrival, access to the VIP tent throughout the day, a taster meal from one of the pop-up restaurant tents, a goody bag and reserved seating in theatre and masterclass sessions as well as a private bar with great views of entertainment stage.

All children aged 12 and under go free when accompanied by an adult.

Opening times: 11am until 9pm (photo by StefZ).

 

Russian police said Tuesday they arrested three men in the acid attack that nearly blinded the artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet, including a star dancer suspected of masterminding the plot.

Sergei Filin was left with severe burns to his eyes and face when a masked attacker threw a jar of sulfuric acid in his face as he returned home late on Jan. 17.

The 42-year-old former dancer is now undergoing treatment in Germany.

Interior Ministry spokesman Anatoly Lastovetsky said Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko is suspected of planning the attack.

Police also arrested the suspected perpetrator of the attack and the man believed to have driven him to and from the scene, the spokesman said.

It was unclear whether either man had any connection to the famed ballet company.

Dmitrichenko, who joined the Bolshoi in 2002, has danced several major parts in recent years, including Ivan the Terrible in the ballet of the same name.

Bolshoi Theater spokeswoman Katerina Novikova said management was not aware of a conflict between him and Filin.

Channel One state television reported that Dmitrichenko’s girlfriend, however, also a Bolshoi soloist, was known to have been at odds with Filin.

The Bolshoi Theater is one of Russia’s premier cultural institutions, best known for “Swan Lake” and the other grand classical ballets that grace its stage.

But backstage, the ballet company has been troubled by deep intrigue and infighting that have led to the departure of several artistic directors over the past few years.

Filin’s colleagues have said the attack could be in retaliation for his selection of certain dancers over others for prized roles.

Filin told state television before he checked out of a Moscow hospital that he knew who ordered the attack but would not name the person.

The Interior Ministry said the alleged perpetrator, 35-year-old Yury Zarutsky, was arrested in the Tver region north of Moscow.

Earlier in the day, police had detained and questioned the suspected accomplice, whom the spokesman identified as Andrei Lipatov.

No other details were provided.

Russian news agencies reported that Lipatov had been detained in the town of Stupino, a sprawling Moscow suburb that has summer houses owned by the Bolshoi Theater and used by its dancers and management.

Dmitrichenko said in a recent interview that he was managing the dachas in his spare time.

 

France's Louvre museum shut down one of its galleries Friday after a woman vandalised an iconic painting by Delacroix by writing on it with a black marker.

The 28-year-old woman was apprehended by an attendant late Thursday after scrawling "AE911" on "Liberty Leading the People", which was on show in the Louvre's recently-opened satellite branch in the northern former mining town of Lens.

It was not immediately clear what the slogan meant.

Police detained her and on Friday the museum said it was temporarily closing the wing of the museum in which the painting was being displayed.

The Louvre said in a statement that a specialist art restorer was being sent to the site but that it believed the damage was not significant and could be easily repaired.

A prosecutor in the nearby town of Bethune who is handling the case said he had asked for a psychiatric evaluation of the young woman who he said appeared to be "unbalanced".

He said her reasons for defacing the painting were not yet clear.

 

Mr Bean actor Rowan Atkinson has successfully claimed £910,000 to fix his smashed-up McLaren F1 supercar, it has been reported.

The Blackadder star's repair bill is believed to be the highest ever recorded in Britain.

And after the year-long work following the August 2011 crash, Atkinson's annual insurance premium is now thought to be as high as £60,000.

Atkinson, whose Mr Bean act returned to a worldwide audience during the Olympics opening ceremony last summer, suffered a shoulder injury in the crash involving the 240mph car, which is thought to be worth around £3 million.

Ben Stagg, a senior client manager at specialist insurers RK Harrison, told the online Daily Mail: "It costs between £10,000 and £15,000 a year just to keep a McLaren F1 insured off-road in a garage.

The Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director Sergei Filin left a Moscow hospital to move to a German clinic for further treatment after he suffered serious eye damage in an acid attack.

Filin, wearing dark glasses and supported by his wife, left the hospital on Monday morning to fly to Germany, where he was set for his first medical examination later in the day.

"I feel good, I would even say excellent. If only my eyes saw a bit better," Filin told journalists outside the hospital, describing his vision as "foggy and blurred."

"I sometimes open my eyes but what I see is only just enough to be able to sense objects or to wash, that is the maximum," he said in televised remarks.

The 42-year-old has already undergone five operations on his eyes since being rushed to hospital on January 17 after being splashed in the face with sulphuric acid in an attack that he has linked to his work at the theatre.

He declined to comment on the investigation, which has included interviews with Bolshoi dancers.

"I think that in the nearest future we will learn the answers to the questions that interest you," Filin said.

The attack on Filin outside his apartment block in central Moscow revealed the dark intrigues swirling at the Bolshoi where Filin was a star dancer before turning to management and becoming the ballet troupe's artistic director in 2011.

In an interview with Russian television aired late Sunday, Filin said he believed he knew who masterminded the attack but was waiting for the results of the investigation.

"My heart knows who did it and in the depths of my soul I have the answer to this question, but it is my perception, my imagination, and so far it's only what I can think to myself."

Filin's facial skin appeared reddened and tight but the greatest damage evident from the attack is to his eyes, which he blinked and only opened to slits during the interview.

A court in Mumbai has ruled that Bollywood star Salman Khan will be tried for culpable homicide over a 2002 hit-and-run case which could land him behind bars for 10 years, his lawyer said Friday.

Khan is alleged to have rammed his Toyota Land Cruiser vehicle onto a pavement and over five sleeping homeless people in suburban Mumbai, killing one and injuring four others.

Dipesh Mehta, who represents Khan, said a sessions court had on Thursday "directed the police to book him for culpable homicide not amounting to murder".

"We will however challenge this decision in the High Court," Mehta told AFP.

Khan was being tried under a lesser charge of rash and negligent driving but prosecutors had filed an application for the charges to be upgraded, which the court upheld. The new offences carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison.

"The court said there was enough evidence to show the act was not incidental and hence the case should be tried under a more serious section," the Times of India reported on Friday, quoting another of Khan's lawyers Kaushal Thakkar.

The star has been asked to be present in court on March 11.

 

British rock star David Bowie unveiled his first new single in ten years to coincide with his 66th birthday on Tuesday, and will release a fresh album in March.

The outlandish icon broke his musical silence by posting a video for the single, entitled "Where are We Now?", on his website (www.davidbowie.com), and it will also be available to download on iTunes.

The new album, "The Next Day", will be released on March 11, containing 14 tracks.

Bowie has released no new music since his last album, "Reality", in 2003, and he has not performed live since 2006. He underwent a medical procedure for a blocked artery in 2004.

"January the 8th is of course David Bowie's birthday, a timely moment for such a treasure to appear as if out of nowhere," a statement on his website said.

The video for the single harks back to Bowie's time in Berlin in the 1970s and features his face projected onto the body of a puppet. A woman's face appears on another puppet next to him.

It was directed by his long-term collaborator, artist Tony Oursler.

Bowie's son, the film director Duncan Jones, who was formerly known as Zowie Bowie, said on Twitter: "Would be lovely if all of you could spread the word about da's new album. First in ten years, and its a good 'un!"