Sunday, 25 July 2010

Lordy Lordy. Itah Sadu uses Black humour to keep the party rolling Saturday night

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Lord Black fills the cracks in the Calypso Monarch programme - Scotiabank Caribana event at Science Centre
Jokes about Conrad Black

Itah Sadu has been making a living as a storyteller for almost twenty years in Toronto. She has the ability to make up a humourous story in a New York minute ( I guess I should say a North York minute) and give an Oscar winning performance delivering the goods. She is so fast that audiences don't even realize that when she takes a deep breath on stage she is actually dreaming up her next 2-minute bit to keep everyone amused.
Her talents were put to the test on Saturday night at the Ontario Science Centre. Itah was the MC for the annual Soca Monarch Contest. This contest is the culmination of a summer of performances by Calypso singers who fight it out to see who can compete at the Monarch for the right to wear the Calypso crown (there is indeed an actual crown).
The evening was plagued with delays. A late drummer meant that the doors opened almost an hour late while the performers conducted sound checks on stage. The sold-out crowd entered the theatre in a testy mood.
Although the music was good and the audience was soon won over, Itah had her hands full with sound system malfunctions and performer delays, meaning she had to keep every one's spirits high with stories and jokes while the problems got fixed.
How good is she? At one point in the evening when she realized that hers was the only mike on stage that worked (and the next singer wouldn't be out until it was fixed) she rhymed off a string of Conrad Black jokes. I paraphrase a little of what she said about Lord Black -- and remember she came up with the following bon mots in a nano-second pause on stage.
IB - on the way over tonight my cab driver asked me if it was true Conrad Black was black. I said, "No Man" if he was black he would still be in jail!
IB - there is one thing in common that our community has with Conrad Black - no country wants us!
IB - I heard that Conrad Black was interested in Guyana. You know that country thinks it is in the Caribbean but it is actually in South America. That means he now has two places where he can try to claim refugee status.
Cutline:
Left - Itah Sadu at the Scotiabank Gala
Right - Calypso singer competing in the Calypso Monarch Contest - Ontario Science Cetnre. Toronto.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Two Jane/Finch students win scholarships for Seneca College


Caribana™ Arts Group/Yorkgate Mall
7th Annual THINK! Scholarship

2010 recipients receive cheques at the closing ceremony of the Scotiabank Caribana/Yorkgate Mall Junior Carnival Parade

The “Caribana Arts Group/Yorkgate Mall Scholarship” Selection Committee announced on June 6th, 2010 that two scholarships have been awarded to high school students selected from Wards 7, 8 and 9 to pursue their post-secondary education at Seneca College beginning this fall. Payments will be handed out to awardees during the closing ceremonies of the Scotiabank Caribana/Yorkgate Mall Junior Carnival Parade on Saturday, July 17th, 2010.
The scholarships are fully funded by Yorkgate Mall Administration in partnership with Seneca College, Fire & Ambulance, the City of Toronto, Community Partnerships and Toronto Residents in Partnership, RCMP, Metro Toronto Police Services (MTPS) - 31 Division, and the Caribana™ Arts Group (CAG).

This year’s scholarship recipients are:

Osato Idemudia (17 years old)
Osato attends James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School, and has been accepted into the Collaboratative Nursing program at Seneca College for September 2010. She has been awarded a full scholarship of $1,000 towards her tuition at Seneca.
She volunteered as a Teacher’s Aid Assistant at Young Artists Daycare Centre in Downsview, helping with various tasks to prepare the learning environment for students aged 4 to 5 years old.

Michael Leonardo
Michael attends James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School, and has been accepted into the Computer Systems Technology Program at Seneca College for September 2010. Despite his visual disability – he uses Braille in completing his studies – he has attained a high level of success in his work. He has been awarded an honourarium of $500 towards his tuition at Seneca.
Michael has good computer skills and has volunteered at a home shelter.
“After seven years of selecting and interviewing many students for this scholarship,” says Colin Benjamin, Chair of this scholarship’s Selection Committee, “it is the first time that we have had both awardees coming from the same school. That, in itself, is unusual. But this shows that the quality of the students is highly competitive.”
Cutlines:
Left - Michael Leonardo holds the scholarship cheque that he just received from Colin Benjamin (right) at the Junior Carnival Parade held in Toronto as part of Scotiabank Caribana.
Right - Osato Idemudia and Colin Benjamin

Photos by Stephen Weir - text from a press release written by Alicia Sealey and Stephen Weir.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Flipping Starfish in the warm blue Caribbean Sea.

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INSIDE OUT AND GETTING WET IN ANTIGUA
(repost request)
By Stephen Weir

As spectator sports go, Antiguan Starfish Flipping has a very small fan base. That is because you have to be a certified scuba diver, have the patience of Job and a high tolerance for low jokes to appreciate watching a Oreaster Reticulatus turn itself inside out.
Antigua is a small vibrant island of 67,000 English-speaking people. Situated on the Eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea, the former British colony is within sight of the islands of St. Kitts, Nevis, volcanic Montserrat and its political partner Barbuda.
Although this popular scuba diving destination is not blessed with an abrupt deep coral wall drop-off, it does have a rich healthy ring reef system that is close to shore. These shallow reefs are almost untouched and are filled with unusual sea life including a vast number of bottom dwelling starfish.
“ If you came back from a dive and said you didn’t see anything, then you didn’t really dive, you just got wet!” explains John Birk, the outspoken owner of Dive Antigua, the island’s longest established dive operation.
“Consider the lowly starfish” he continued. “Most people think it is a rigid unmoving life form. However, when motivated not only can a starfish walk, but also it can actually turn itself inside out. Today we are going to motivate starfish!”
Standing on the stern platform of his 35ft long twin engine dive boat, Mr. Birk straps on an extra large weight belt around his waist – Big John is a big man! While he gets his underwater dive gear ready he reels of a number of jokes to his five paying customers.
“People always ask me if I take charge cards. I say yes … but the police always make me give them back!”
The boat is moored just a hundred yards offshore from Pillars of Hercules. The crashing seas have pounded out a series of what seems like crude Doric columns into the side of a looming cliff. Approachable only by water, the pillars look like the ruins of a Greek temple transported to this popular Caribbean island.
“People in Canada all have watches because they are stressed for time,” chuckles Big John, as he lifts his aluminum scuba tank over his head and straps it on his back. “In Antigua we don’t need watches -- we just have time.”
There divers are on the boat, not to hear his jokes, but, to learn about the sea. Big John, an ex-pat Canadian, has been diving for almost 40 years and is regarded as a world authority on Antigua’s underwater eco-system. He may be big, but he knows small,
Within moments of the boat’s anchoring everyone has jumped into the warm blue water and swum through a swift surface current to the dead calm sand bottom 40 feet below the boat. With Big John in the lead the group headed seaward past a number of large boulders (which fell off the nearby cliff) towards a small coral reef covered in colourful seafans, soft corals and teeming with fish life. As they swam along the bottom two large stingrays cruised by, slowing only briefly to study the underwater tourists.
On the reefs edge the divers settled onto the sand bottom. Big John pointed to a group of starfish sitting on the sea bottom near by. Just because the divers were underwater, didn’t mean that their guide didn’t have anything to say. He pulled a pencil out of his dive vest and began to furiously write on an underwater slate.
“ Starfish aren’t fish,” he wrote. “They are marine invertebrate of the class Asteroidea – and there are over 1800 different starfish species.”
The divers lay on the sand and watched as Big John put aside his writing gear and picked up an orange-brown starfish from the seabed. On top (the aboral side) it had a hard spiny surface and five distinct stubby arms. Turning it over to look at its oral side one could see the creature’s mouth and five radiating grooves filled with tiny sucker-tipped feet
This starfish was surprisingly rigid. Big John, explained, through his writing, that when threatened the starfish tightens itself up through a series skeletal plates that are imbedded in its flesh. Blunt spines project from these plates offering protection against predators.
“The starfish has no eyes, ears or nose,” wrote Big John. “This fellow relies on its legs for almost everything. “
Placed on the ocean floor with its feet pointing up towards the surface, the starfish appeared to be totally helpless. However it didn’t take long to realize that the Cushion Starfish had everything under control.
The first thing that happened was that two of its arms started to curl inwards towards its mouth. It took about a minute for the now rubbery arms to actually reach over its mouth and touch the sand bottom below.
As the starfish arms began to reach towards the sand, the middle part of the body began to fold in the same direction. The starfish had actually folded itself in two, with a pair of arms touching the sand downward, while the three remaining arms reached upwards.
“ The three upward arms will now fold backwards,” wrote John Birk. “At this point it is safe from attack because its vital organs are once again protected.”
Sure enough before another 60 seconds had passed the starfish had curled its three remaining arms upwards. The creature had flipped itself inside out and once again gone rigid.
The Cushion Starfish has an internal hydraulic system that allows it to move in any direction simply by sucking seawater through a number of holes on its surface. This one hit the seabed running and was beating a hasty (for a starfish) retreat from the circle of divers.
Now not all divers want to spend their whole vacation watching a Cushion Starfish try out for a role with Cirque do Soleil. There are many other exciting dives that can be taken in the warm shallow waters around Antigua.
Antigua sits atop of a shallow bank and as a result most of the diving is shallow, though on the south side it is possible to get below 100 feet. Unlike most of the other islands where the diving is on the fringing reef Antigua has real coral reefs on the north, south and east sides. Both Boons Reef to the north and Cades Reef to the south are dived. There are a few wrecks, some of them sunk intentionally that can also be seen by scuba tourists.
“Boons Reef is also a favourite spot for diving,” said Mr. Birk. “But, when the weather is right and the seas are calm we like to rock and roll in Eric Clapton’s back yard,”
Guitarist Eric Clapton has built an estate on an empty point of land. The rolling hilltop home overlooks a seaside bay. John Birk’s Dive Antigua boat will take divers to a site that puts the rock into rock and roll. In the water below Clapton’s house there is a huge rock – it is the size of a city block. The boulder’s top is just 3 feet below the surface, and it slopes seaward to a depth of 70 ft. The rock is fertile grounds for gorgonian corals, barrel sponges and purple sea fans. In amongst the many crevices that intersect the rock divers can find schools of blue tang, shy nurse shark and oversized black marhates.
Dive Antigua is located on Dickenson Bay on the north end of the island. There are also dive shops in the nearby capital city of St John’s, at Jolly Beach and English Harbour (a restored shipyard built in part by Horatio Nelson). All of the dive shops provide reef diving but Big John is the only dive master who offers starfish flipping dives!
CUTLINES
TOP LEFT: Big John Birk
TOP RIGHT: Dive Boat makes stops along Dickenson Bay picking up customers!
BOTTOM: A Starfish flips itself over - Underwater PHotography by J. Francis
(Diver Magazine 2004)



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Just the Facts (on Cushion Starfish)

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CUSHION STARFISH FACT FILE

• Starfish is a name that is beginning to fall out of fashion because they aren’t really fish. The species are now called seastars.
• Cushion Starfish or Seastars range in colour from brown to orange, red, and yellow. They grow to a diameter of 10 inches and lives at a depth to 50 feet.
• As a natural defense mechanism, the starfish is able to change its body colour to hide or escape from predators.
• The arms of the starfish are used for movement, catching prey and digestion. It is able to grow a new arm if one is lost.
• It feeds on slow-moving or stationary animals. Clams, oysters and snails are the usual prey, but it also eats fish eggs and mollusk. The starfish stomach extends through the mouth to snare food. The meal is then transported to the starfish's digestive glands within its arms.
• Cushion Starfish live up to 8 years in captivity and can survive up to two hours out of water.