High pitch: In search of the next Whitney


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The Independent Online

Gary Catona would like to teach the world to sing. To that end, the vocal coach who has worked with Stevie Wonder, Liza Minnelli, Andrea Bocelli and Lorde (the list really does go on), is hosting the world's largest ever singing lesson online at Google Hangout on 12 December.

The event is part of the preparation for his forthcoming digital series, The Ultimate Diva, which will allow one "wild card" to enter alongside a group of professional singers from around the world.

Do we really need another talent show? "There are a lot of pop singers, but to be a diva is something else," Catona says. What, like being difficult and demanding? "Diva," Catona insists, "originates from the Italian for 'divine' and I am looking for someone with the emotional intensity to transform the listener with an almost supernatural power." Wow. There aren't many of those around. "No. The last was Whitney, who I also worked with."

One final question. Why is The Ultimate Diva open only to women? "There are two answers to that," he says. "The first is that the diva has an important function: to promote the power and sovereignty and beauty of woman. This is their glory." And the second answer? "We are getting to men in the next season."

The perfect Per

While others in the football community felt free to air their views on Jewish people last week, Arsenal's towering German defender Per Mertesacker was happy to confess that he had never met a Jew before coming to London.

So, when Mertesacker moved to Hampstead and a neighbour invited him and his wife round for Friday night dinner, his initial thought was that the evening might be "awkward". Instead, he enjoyed himself so much that he took little persuading to be the subject of an event, "An Evening with Per Mertesacker", which took place at the St John's Wood Synagogue last Wednesday.

Cue the United Synagogue's Natalie Zussman, whose one job it was to introduce the footballer as he took the stage. "Tonight," she told the audience, "we are very pleased to welcome the Arsenal centre-forward Per Mertesacker."

"Yes," he said as he sat himself down for an evening of fielding questions ranging from the Holocaust to his team's form, "I am the best striker in the world." Turns out that the United Synagogue's staff know as much about football as Mertesacker used to about Jewish culture.

Slimming world

As the Paddington film opens across the UK, more than a few folk have pointed out that it looks as if the little chap from Peru has been on a crash diet and bears (paws to take that one in) more than a passing resemblance to Alexandr the Meerkat.

And Paddington, it seems, is not the only beloved public figure who has now been rendered ineligible for yesterday's Plus Size Awards. A report for Clintons compared Christmas cards from the past 20 years and among its other findings – robins are out, snowmen are in – came the revelation that "Father Christmas has lost around 14kg in the past decade". Let's hope that Santa is more of a ho-ho dieter and will be back to his cuddly best soon.

Click or treat

You have to hand it to the former tech writer for The New York Times David Pogue, who now writes an excellent column for Yahoo. Pogue has taken it upon himself to ruin those infuriating "clickbait" headlines, because, he says, "when you see how underwhelming the actual story is, you feel used".

Pogue's "Clickbait Spoilers" give you the headline ("Cupcakes Kept Disappearing. So They Set Up a Hidden Camera – Wow!" and then tells you what happened: "The dog was eating them." Brilliant. There's only one real problem. Yahoo's home page, where you can click on the following: "Tom Cruise doesn't get asked this very often", "Which F1 star admits to Scherzinger crush?" and "Legend reveals cancer battle's one regret".

When push comes to shove

We've all been there: standing politely in a queue when someone obviously more important comes along and muscles their way to the front. So, you have to hand it to the anonymous New York woman who wrote an open letter on Craigslist which began "Dear Nightmare Human Being". "Everything you do," the letter continued, "even something as stupid as boarding a bus, speaks to your ugly character. Have fun being an awful human. Love, the Universe." Hope the woman in question saw it.

No rhyme or reason

Another in a regular series of limericks based on recent events:

As she looked up and down the Kent street,

The Labour MP sent a tweet,

But while her mocking of Strood,

Was perhaps a bit rude,

They had no chance of winning the seat.