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Thursday, December 29, 2005 | Upcoming film, music and visual arts events:

VISUAL ARTS

The walls are alive. His images are ubiquitous online and his portraits continue to glow on new and faded covers of the National Geographic. But coming face-to-face with a Steve McCurry 30×40 film print is a different experience altogether. The luminosity and stillness of his enormous, color-soaked images isolate them from the chaotic circumstances that they document, telling stories of warfare and suffering that are inscribed on human faces worldwide.

Visitors to the Museum of Photographic Arts last summer were transported from the sterile white space of the gallery to refugee camps in Afghanistan, sandstorms in India and temples in Cambodia. Packed into the more crowded, casual rooms at the Old Town Gallery, the images in the latest show invite intimacy and command meditation. The works spans two decades and dozens of continents, including McCurry’s recent work from his travels in Tibet and India and iconic images such as his portrait of a young Afghani girl with green eyes taken in 1984.

“Steve McCurry, Photographs 1985-2005” can be viewed from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, through Feb. 14, at Gallery Old Town, 2513 San Diego Ave., Old Town. Info: (619) 296-7877.

More art:

– “Lil Big Fat” features more than 100 whimsical and intimate little works that will please your wallet – and likely fit in it, too. Those that weren’t snatched up for stocking stuffers are still on display through Jan. 25, and new miniature masterpieces will replenish the walls on Jan. 7. Magpie Gallery and Boutique is open 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, noon to 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays, at 2205 Fern St., South Park. Info: (619) 563-5124

– “Landing Grounding Finding Founding” describes four mental states experienced by humans as they discover, explore and personalize natural landscapes. Four screens simulate the experience of artist Jessica Bronson as she wanders through a streambed near her home in Pasadena. The work can be viewed daily (except Wednesdays) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Feb. 19 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, 1001 Kettner Blvd., downtown. Info: (619) 234-1070 or www.mcasd.org.

– “Interpreting the Chanukah Menorah” might have seemed straightforward after your seventh-grade Bar or Bat Mitzvah, but local, regional and international artists prove that the popular ritual item has a personality all its own. Explore it for yourself at the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture’s Gotthelf Art Gallery, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 19, at 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. Info: (858) 457-3030 or www.lfjcc.org.

– The last chance to see how local artists have wrestled with border issues, urban development, beach culture and other themes central to the Southern California region for more than four decades in “Southern Exposure.” The show can be viewed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays through Jan. 1, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego’s La Jolla location, 700 Prospect St. Info: (858) 454-3541 or

FILM

It’s all about character. “Breakfast on Pluto” follows the story of Patrick “Kitten” Braden (Cillian Murphy, “28 Days Later”), a young man who was left as a baby on a doorstep in a small Irish town. Acutely aware that he has always been “different,” Patrick survives on his endearing wit and persona and is determined to remain true to himself. He travels to swinging London (circa 1970) and takes the stage as a transvestite cabaret singer. Sounds so glam rock, but the story is juxtaposed with the religious and political strife of the era in both London and Ireland. Written and directed by Neil Jordan, the film also stars Liam Neeson and packs a wholloping punch with its soundtrack featuring songs from Cole Porter to T-Rex.

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New Year’s Special Edition. In case you need to be reminded, New Year’s is the one night per year when you get to party the way you can justify only one night per year. And what brings the party more than good, old-fashioned live music? Here are a few of San Diego’s (many) good bets for live tunes to ring in twenty-oh-six:

The Mother Hips like to puff on the harmony-laden, old-timey Nor-Cal jam rock that almost passed on with Jerry Garcia. Rambling around the west for more than a decade, these rootsy regional favorites are just now beginning to get their due. With Billy Midnight and Bartender’s Bible at the Casbah, 2501 Kettner Blvd. $32 advance/$35 day of show. Info: (619) 232-HELL or www.casbahmusic.com.

Chris Isaak is a mother’s kind of cowboy. His melancholic country-billy, lush with vintage reverb, outsparkles even his throwback greaser-doo. And though the heartthrob’s laments have found their share of radio play, that old Americana nerve still sings below his Grammy-nominated gloss. At House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Ave. $125-$135. Info: (619) 299-BLUE.

Kinky and the B-Side Players are two of the hottest Latin-rock acts around. With more instruments than a surgery ward, Kinky rock below-the-border rhythms through bass-savvy 21st-century instrumentation that makes old-timers like Los Lobos seem, well, old. But the B-Side Players, with Latin rhythm chops to spare and a horn section that defines “wail,” distill the full thrill-potential of Latin musical tradition (even the gringos will be dancing). For pure fun, this combo is hard to beat. At 4th and B, 345 B St. $45 advance/$55 day of show. Info: (619) 2231-4343.

Alfred Howard and the K-23 Orchestra is San Diego’s jazz-poet laureate almost by default, if only because his live show is so damn good. Howard actually bothered to put a good combo together, so his spoken-word departures are backed up by all the virtuosic, beat-driven jamming you can nod your head to. And he knows how to run a crowd. With Those Dang Robinsons at Winston’s, 1921 Bacon St., Ocean Beach. Free. Info: (619) 222-6822. (IP)

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