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Thursday, December 08, 2005 | Upcoming visual arts, film and music events:

VISUAL ARTS

Mourning history. Driving through downtown San Diego, one can’t help but notice several new additions to the skyline: construction cranes. Condos continue to take over the urban landscape at a rapidly accelerating pace. Redevelopment projects seem to reign supreme over local history.

St. Cecilia’s Playhouse, on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Cedar Street, is one of many downtown spaces soon to be handed over to developers. Although the exact fate of the former funeral chapel turned theater is unknown, the building’s current tenants – Sledgehammer Theatre – are moving on out. But before they go, Sledgehammer will host its own wake, complete with a commissioned, contemporary “requiem” – by San Diego composer Pea Hicks and Seattle composer and Sledgehammer co-founder Tim Root – to honor the structure and its past tenants (even the ghosts).

“A/WAKE: A De-Installation with Choir and Soloists” runs 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, Friday, Dec. 9 and Saturday, Dec. 10 at St. Cecilia’s Playhouse, 1620 Sixth Ave. (at Cedar) in downtown. Limited seating is available; tickets can be purchased online. Info: (619) 544-1484 or www.sledgehammer.org.

More art:

-Local nonprofit The AjA Project will host an exhibition of photography by 30 refugee youth – from countries including Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq – at 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8 (today) at the City Heights Wellness Center, 4440 Wightman St., City Heights. Students from Cajon Valley Middle School in El Cajon and Crawford High School in City Heights will present their work and also will participate in a question and answer session with the audience. Info: www.ajaproject.org.

– Everyday characters you may meet on city streets inhabit the canvases of local artist Zuri Waters. See his latest paintings in the exhibition, “Help,” which opens 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9 at Korova Coffee Bar, 4496 Park Blvd., University Heights. Info: (619) 260-1917 or www.korovacoffeebar.com.

– Need some holiday gift-giving ideas? Pick up some locally produced, original fine art and crafts from noon to 4 p.m. this Sunday, Dec. 11 at the Summit Fine Arts Festival. Items range from ceramics and jewelry to paintings, sculpture and sewing. The free event will be held at the Masonic Lodge, 7849 Tommy Drive, San Diego. Proceeds will benefit the Summit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Info: (619) 463-4676. (CC)

FILM

The slippery truth. If Baumbach fought an internal battle with sentimentalism in his partially autobiographical tale of the ravages of divorce, it is only reflected in the overdone symbolism of the title. The film itself is a veritable gauntlet of realism, shooting life’s most unflattering moments like pointed barbs at an audience comfortably fattened on Hollywood fluff films.

“The Squid and the Whale” begins as the marriage between has-been author Bernard (Jeff Daniels) and up-and-coming writer Joan (Laura Linney) comes to a teetering halt. Through a series of individual moments that are alternately tender, agonizing and bitterly funny, the story follows the emotional unraveling of the two teenage sons, as they explore the moral and societal failings of their parents within their own adolescent universes. Failing a neatly packaged resolution, the audience is left to pick through the Berkman family rubble for glimmers of truth that seem to disappear just when they are within grasp.

“The Squid and the Whale” plays at 2:30, 4:55 and 9:35 daily at the Landmark Hillcrest Cinemas, 3965 5th Ave., Hillcrest. Info: (619) 819-0236 or www.landmarktheatres.com.

More films:

– Two documentary films will voice the perspectives of young local filmmakers on issues of “Employment” and “Community Organizing” in Barrio Logan. Part of a year-long digital story-telling project, “Barrio Logan: Youth Voices and Community Stories,” the pieces are aimed at building pride and identity among young people within the Latino community. The event will include a question and answer session with the filmmakers. Both films screen at 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 11, in the third-floor auditorium of the Central Library, 820 E St., downtown. Info: (619) 236-5800 or www.sandiego.gov/public-library.

– If you’re in the mood to laugh, cry and then forget all about it, “Dieu est grand” (“God Is Great”) is just the obscure French love tale to be paired with ice cream and a box of tissues. This free film screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, in the third-floor auditorium of the Central Library, 820 E St., downtown. Info: (619) 236-5800 or www.sandiego.gov/public-library.

– Only in the scatterbrained plot of a ’50s Hollywood musical can the frontlines of World War II, a snowless ski lodge in Vermont and a blonde Broadway duo mingle to the tune of Christmas carols. Bring a blanket and cash for a hot beverage to watch “White Christmas” under the stars as part of El Cajon’s free “Holidays Outdoor Film Series.” The event runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9, in Judson Park on the corner of Magnolia Avenue and West Park in downtown El Cajon. Info: (619) 401-8858 or www.downtownelcajon.com.

– Santa’s monopoly on the worldwide gift delivery franchise is threatened when Snowman proves he’s an entrepreneur in “Santa vs. The Snowman.” Watch them battle for Christmas on the IMAX screen at 3 p.m. daily through Jan. 1, at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. Info: (619) 238-1233 or www.rhfleet.org.

– “Gifts of Grief” may not be on your holiday wish list, but these tales of other people’s suffering will leave you feeling pretty good about your relatively pain-free existence. Celebrated Chilean novelist Isabelle Allende joins six others in telling her sad story on screen, and filmmaker Nancee Soboya will probably have one, too, during the panel discussion following the film. The event runs from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 8 (tonight), at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Info: (619) 238-7559 or www.mopa.org. (JH)

MUSIC

Say what you will about American Idol … at least we no longer have to wonder what it takes to become an American pop star. Before it – remember the Backstreet Boys? – our latest teen idols were thrust upon us mysteriously, their too-neat haircuts as precisely orchestrated as the vote-for-us-on-TRL campaigns implanting mega-popularity one middle-school clique at a time.

So at least we kind of brought Kelly Clarkson on ourselves, although it seems a bit hard now to remember why. Sure, she’s eminently likeable – what suburban parent could argue with that teenager-next-door charm – but her music’s about as challenging as a sixth-grade math book, and that’s the point. (Word is the pretty face co-wrote about four tracks on her 2003 debut, “Thankful.”) Her music, exemplified by the now-popular, requisite empowerment track “Because of You,” is a plate of saran-wrapped Mariah Carey leftovers with a cold cup of studio wizardry and every syrup-thickening pop songwriting trick in the cookbook. The only thing new here – and this should give us pause – is that we asked for it.

Kelly Clarkson and Graham Colton Band perform Sunday, Dec. 11 at Pechanga Resort and Casino, Temecula. $80-100. Info: (951) 303-2507.

Tunes to turn toes, boggle ‘tots and light the torch:

– Echo and the Bunnymen, who always loosed a psychedelic touch on their disillusioned angst-shanties, are thankfully among the resuscitated British post-punk bands now reunited and touring again. With a new record and a new truce between warring leaders Ian McCulloch and Will Sargeant, another generation of listeners get to figure out what the heck that name means. Echo and the Bunnymen, 9:15 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9 at House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Ave., downtown. $25-27. Info: (619) 299-BLUE.

– Here’s a riddle: Pronounce “!!!” It’s not impossible – three exclamation points actually sound like “chik chik chik” (or any percussive sound repeated three times.) Find this all hopelessly obscure? Then be sure to miss !!!’s speaker-busting attempt to confuse rock fans who think they don’t have to dance. Guitars, synths and horn samples – like innocent punctuation characters – produce more spark together than one might guess. !!!, 8: 30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12 at the Casbah, 2501 Kettner Blvd., Middletown. $12 adv/$14 day of show. Info: (619) 232-HELL.

– Lots of musicians cite the spirituality of their form, but reggae icons the Abyssinians have more concrete evidence: their “Satta Massa Gana” became a Rastafarian hymn – and one of the genre’s all-time classics. The Abyssinians, 9 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12 at The Belly Up Tavern, 143 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach. $18 advance/$20 day of show. Info: (858) 481-8140. (IP)

– VOICE STAFF

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