Elmo want someone to give nice man an IFB

Having a big-name puppet come to town is not exactly child's play.

"Video interviews with Elmo require a monitor and IFB for Elmo's performer," reads the news release announcing that the celebrity furball and Kevin Clash, the Baltimore native who brings him to life, would participate in the lighting of the Washington Monument on Thursday.

IFB is an in-ear communication device, Downtown Partnership spokesman Mike Evitts informed me, noting that it's just one of the high-tech gizmos used to "preserve the illusion" that Elmo speaks for himself.

"'Sesame Street' folks are very careful about how the puppeteers are positioned, so it's interesting, the level of technical sophistication and infrastructure that's required," he said.

Part of it is staging. Some sort of box, outfitted with monitors, earpieces and whatnot, will enable Clash to know what's happening onstage but also keep the puppeteer hidden from view while Elmo does his thing.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake won't be visible, either: She and Clash won't come onstage to light the monument until after Elmo makes his exit.

Early adopter

Kevin Kamenetz, who will be sworn in as Baltimore County executive on Monday, wasn't quite there with Al Gore at the creation of the Internet. But he was an early adopter.

So early, in fact, that Kamenetz made news in April 1996 when he had the County Council create a Web page, something so widely unknown at the time that the Woodlawn Villager newspaper had to explain what the heck it was.

"Kevin Kamentz [sic], Chairman of the Baltimore County Council, has announced that the Council has established a home page on the World Wide Web, an information retrieval system for the computer network known as the Internet," the article began.

Kamenetz came across the article recently as he prepared to vacate his County Council office.

"I'm cleaning out my desk after 16 years, and I'm finding all sorts of things," he said.

That Kamenetz understood the Internet before most of us suggests he'll make good on his campaign pledge to improve the county's use of technology.

But there are limits to his skills as a tech seer.

"I only wish I bought stock in the Internet 15 years ago," he said. "Then I really would have been a smart guy."

Picture this

Photographers, stylists, makeup artists and others are converging on Charm City Church in West Baltimore on Saturday to offer a free solo or family portrait to anyone who shows up.

The program, which takes place from noon to 3 p.m. at 2001 Frederick Ave., is part of a national charity event called Help Portrait. I wrote about it when it debuted last year, back when I had a gift-card-swiping, just-convicted-but-still-clinging-to-office mayor with which to contrast this act of selfless charity.

This year, with Sheila Dixon out of City Hall, I'm afraid all I can do is stick to the purely uplifting particulars of the event. More than 75 volunteers are lined up to participate, three times as many as last year. About 200 individuals and families got photos the first time around; organizers, who've sent fliers to area schools, hope to serve triple that number Saturday.

Hewlett-Packard has loaned the group three high-quality printers and ink, so people will be able to walk out with their 8-by-10 portraits. (Last year, the pictures had to be printed elsewhere and mailed to the families afterward.)

"It kind of brings a sense of humanity to us as photographers," said Mike Stog, a Columbia photographer who is heading up the Baltimore effort. "It's not a commercial gig. It's about the person."

Photographs will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis, but organizers will do their best to keep people busy with baked goods and games in a lounge as they wait.

Said Stog: "We really wanted to get away from the MVA or DMV feel."

Renegades only, please

Richard Cross, a former speechwriter for Bob Ehrlich who became a vocal critic of "strategic missteps" made by his campaign four years ago and again this year, is ready for a revolution.

"[A] bunch of us will be celebrating the rising renegade movement in Maryland GOP politics by hosting a 'Renegades Room' at the state Republican convention on the evening of December 10, 2010 at the Doubletree Hotel in Annapolis," Cross writes on his politics and pop culture blog, Cross Purposes (http://rjc-crosspurposes.blogspot.com).

Cross writes that he has reserved a hotel suite for "free-thinking" Maryland Republicans who are ready to shake up the party.

"[P]lease keep in mind that the organizers of the event reserve the right to control access to the room," he writes. "In other words, legitimate renegades are welcome, but those who foment trouble simply for self-serving reasons are not."


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