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Candid camera obscura

Big kids can make their own images with cell phones and digital cameras, computers, and video cams. But that's expensive, high-end technology --- what's a little kid to do?

            My 7-year-old son and I "invented" a solution one day while fooling around with a magnifying glass. A miniature reflection of the window he was facing appeared upside down on his shirt, complete with tossing trees and blue sky. The magnifying glass inverted the light streaming through the window and created a smaller, topsy-turvy world right there on his belly.

            I ran around outside the window. He said I looked like a doll in a blurry movie; the room was too bright to get a sharp image. I recalled seeing The Girl with the Pearl Earring, in which Vermeer demonstrated a camera obscura --- a wooden box that used a lens and mirrors to show, inside, a crisp image of whatever it was pointed at.

            We made our own low-budget camera obscura by cutting a hole in the short end of a shoebox, taping the 2-inch magnifying glass into it and using a large, opaque cloth to cover our heads, blocking all other light. Instead of mirrors, we held an index card in the box, tilted it toward the magnifying glass, and slid it back and forth to focus the image on the card.

            There it was! The universe at our fingertips! My son took that thing everywhere, capturing fleeting images of his world: blossoming trees, his friends, our cats.

--- Jennifer Loviglio


This week for families:

Brighton Memorial Library Story times: toddlers, Mondays, 10:30 a.m.; preschoolers, Mondays, 11:30 a.m.; PJ stories, Tuesdays, 7 p.m.; toddlers and preschoolers, Fridays, 10 a.m.; families, Thursdays, 7 p.m. 2300 Elmwood Ave. 784-5300

Hochstein School Full scholarships available for low-income kids ages 4-12, summer Arts in Action Program. 454-4596, www.hochstein.org.

Preschool Family Workshop Thurs, May 27. Art project, story, tour, for ages 2.5-5, Memorial Art Gallery, 500 University Ave, 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Tix: $15. 473-7720 ext 3056

Seneca Park Zoo 2222 St Paul St. Animal fashion show, Mon, May 31, for ages 4-6, 9:30 a.m. Tix: $22. Hours: daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tix: $5, $4 seniors, $2 kids. 467-9453, www.senecazoo.org.

Strong Museum | One Manhattan Square, 263-2700, www.strongmuseum.org.

Information on museum exhibits can be found in the calendar's Museum section.


'Shrek 2'

Ubiquitous marketing notwithstanding, Lila and I were excited about Shrek 2. Lila loved the silly and gross humor in Shrek, like how he made candles out of earwax and burped a lot. I liked the quick wit, cultural references, and heart at its center. And Donkey gave us the great Eddie Murphy at his best.

            Lila hoped Shrek 2 would be silly, and it is, perhaps even quicker-witted, and less reliant on potty humor (the TV theme musical jokes are among the many screamers). We started laughing --- really laughing --- immediately, and seldom stopped. It's a solid entertainment dollar value.

            Toy Story 2 is one of the great sequels of a great movie, even though its villain (Big Al) isn't up to the level of Toy Story's (Sid). Shrek 2 doesn't have that problem, replacing John Lithgow's Lord Farquaad with three archetype-bending characters: John Cleese's father with a secret, Jennifer Saunders's brilliantly conceived entrepreneurial Fairy God Mother, and Rupert Everett's simpering Prince Charming. What makes Toy Story 2 great, though, is its heart, the sadness of the abandoned toy, Jessie, planted in our souls by Randy Newman's terrific song, "When She Loved Me."

            That heart is slightly lacking here. The more sensitive versions of Shrek and his now-wife, Fiona, don't have as far to go on their journeys to humanity, making the resolution less satisfying. The way Lila put it was that Shrek was more sensitive and less Ogre-ish, and that Fiona had less attitude. All true, but the invention, the writing, the voice talent, and the spectacular look are all there, and Shrek 2 is still a blast.

--- Lila and Adam Wilcox

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