i am not Derek White [nor Jackson Pollock]: IDentity & REinvention in the Roman Fossil Beds

ID-entities have been on my mind re[ti]cently | i dentities & RE-INvention of self | being a fish out of water will do that to you | fumbling around in a marketplace of foreign language & ritual & putting new food items into your body | IDentity [in GENiEral] is a fleShed idEA compos[t]ed of millions of idEAl ions amalGAMETEd from the acCUMulation of prior GENErations ||

bikINi ISland

ID 1: bikINi ISland [in theory]

the way in which IDentity is shaped by language was the topic of this recent article in WSJ | for example it says that Spanish & Japanese speakers don't REMember the aGents of accidental events in the way that English speakers do | sometimes when i'm walking or riding my bike & some Roman asshole in a car or motorino cuts me off or qualcosa i get frustrated because i want to say something but i don't know what or how & even if i did then i better be able to respond to their retort which here ends up being a long back & forth tennis volleying of insults bottlenecking any traffic behind | but then again what's the point? Romans have been set in their ways for 1000s of years—a bitch session placing blame in broken Italian is not gonna change anything ||

more than this though [what the article doesn't mention] are the associations that language triggers—all the etymological baggage lingering beneath the strings of letters or phrases | when you are acCustomed to your mother tongue you wear it like second skin & often don't stop to really look at a word or sentence | & when you learn a new language you often see things lurking that native speakers overlook in the day-to-day ||

i've had a few conversations here with Romans about how fossilized Italians are | «fossilizzato» they say | dogs that you can't teach new tricks | my talk of opening a taco stand here is met with derisive laughter | «Romans have no interest in eating anything but Roman food»—i've heard them say over & over | even eating food from other regions of Italy is a stretch | but i wonder if it's them saying this over & over that reinforces these tastes | it's something they are programmed to say out of stubborn pride but if you stuffed a taco in their mouth maybe they'd shut up for a second & actually swallow | it goes way beyond tacos | most  Italians don't believe they can do aNYthing | not that believing you can do anything is necessarily a good trait to have—in the past switching off [not expressing] a gene for «believing you can do anything» could save your apathetic ass during times of strife | but now is different i think | Roberto Benigni's sidekick at the beginning of La Vita è Bella taught him to heed Schopenhauer's ideas of free-will & he does | it doesn't save his ass in the end but it enables him to hang on long enough to pass on this recessive gene to his son Giosué | that was 1997—now Giosué should be grown up with IDeas of his own || [video removed]

the rich tradition of film aside—there doesn't seem to be much of a culture of DIY or outsider art here & it's not that anyone's stopping you from doing these things it's just that people think you need to be qualified in some way or have the proper credentials from some accredited institution | the only thing keeping Italians from trying anything new is this thinking that they can't | or maybe that's me being a simpleminded & naïve outsider weaned on Schopenhauer | from my outsider p.o.v. this fossilized turf is a fertile breeding ground for REinvention ||

i've read a few books lately that have stoked my thoughts on IDentity & REinvention | Out of My Skin by John Haskell is about a writer that moves to LA to start over & becomes a Steve Martin impersonator [or to be precise—he actually starts by impersonating a Steve Martin impersonator!] | aside from that the plot is pretty run-of-the-mill [he mimics Steve Martin to get the girl of his dreams] & come to think of it has a lot in common with Barton Fink [wherein Haskell's obsession with Steve Martin can be replaced by Fink's obsession with the common man [embodied by Goodman's Charlie]] though not nearly as brooding | either way it's the protagonist striving to be what they are not | some interesting philosophical underpinnings come of this impersonation scenario that cause you to reconsider your own skin | Haskell has an interesting way of talking about things wherein he is always self-conscious of the body he is trapped in—like here when he's stuck in a stare:

John Haskell: Out of my Skin

«... And I guess I was paying so much attention to the visual aspect of her face that, at some point, some neurons stopped firing. The soundtrack of the world got turned off and the event I was witnessing, an event I was part of—became, in my mind, a silent movie. I could see her mouth talking and smiling, but with the audio part of the program cut out, because I wasn't distracted by the content of what she was saying. I could look at her and feel what I actually felt about her.»

& although the language he uses is fairly straight-forward narrative he often alludes to more than what's on the surFACE which given the CIRcumstances [hanging around writer- & movie-types in LA] is appropriate | e.g. this in the hot tub with some hotshot film critic:

«... He used the word massage, but every time he did he raised his eyebrows, as if trying to make the word mean something else, and I didn't know what it was supposed to be meaning exactly, but it appeared to mean more than merely some therapeutic kneading of muscle and skin.

I told him I needed more time with the lookalike revisions, that the subject, meaning Scott, was intriguing to me, but the article needed work. "Don't be afraid to finish," he said, and ducked his head into the water. It was difficult carrying on the conversation because Alan kept ducking his head, occasionally telling me that I needed to grease my wheel, and that there was something he wanted me to see.

"See?" Everything was beginning to have quotation marks at this point, which often happened with Alan. Things became "things" and good became "good," and I could almost understand that, but sometimes there were quotation marks around the quotation marks.»

...making your head sPin into a recursive black hole of self-referential identity loss—a bubbling hoTTUB whose bubbles are «quotation marks» & then they all pop leaving an aftermath of chlorinated & botoxed STAGnation ||

unEVEnt HOLizonE [diorama]

ID 2: unEVEnt HOLizonE [in diorama]


speaking of hot tubs did you know taking a sauna could be a competitive sport?  | that is until Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy got the lifetime achievement Darwin award & ruined it for the rest of us | & in case you're wondering about the «quotation marks» i've been using lately that's the way they roll here & i like it | i saw them in a newspaper when we were visiting Rome last December & it stuck | grammar & punctuation are trivial things to fixate on & for that matter the same can be said of language—these are just letters strung together into words & words strung together into sentences & sentences strung together into i don't know what | [here] it is language trying to express what it is other attempts at language induced in me [whoever that is] when it's easier to just quote the source:

«... And it' strange because if there's a mirror around, it's hard not to look. And I did look. And what I saw, literally, was the glass of the mirror. Not the image in the mirror, but the mirror itself. I knew I was there, in my peripheral vision, but I wasn't focusing on my image, I was focusing on the actual glass.»

get it? Haskell does | i'm not John Haskell but sometimes the whole point of reading is to not be yourself & get absorbed in someone else's head for a spell | i also read Haskell's I Am Not Jackson Pollockamazon which is a collection of stories that continue his obsession with identity & celebrities—not limited to: { Jackson Pollock | Janet Leigh | Ganesha | Joan of Arc | Aristotle | Bashō | Keats | Laika the dog | you name it } | he draws from & rehashes old movies & books & historical records in Marksonian fashion—mining them for their subtextual implications | it's a contemplative circus sideshow complete with Topsy the killer Coney Island elephant |

time after time in his collection we encounter artists that lose themselves for their art whether it be actors or painters or poets || «The Faces of Joan of Arc» is not so much about Joan of Arc as it is about Renée Falconetti's role as Joan in The Passion of Joan of Arc & what Falconetti did to get into character—the pain she inflicted on herself to get an idea of how Joan of Arc felt || [video removed]

& now i know how Morissey felt when he sung «now i know how Joan of Arc felt» & i'm wondering if the song is really about Falconetti?

«sweetness, sweetness I was only joking when I said
by rights you should be bludgeoned in your bed
And now I know how Joan of Arc felt,
now I know how Joan of Arc felt
As the flames rose to her roman nose and her walkman started to melt
Bigmouth, bigmouth
Bigmouth strikes again and I've got no right to take my place with the human race»

though i didn't realize he says walkman—that changes everything considering Falconetti died in 1946 & Joan of Arc died well before that so perhaps he is talking about Milla Jovovich in Luc Besson's 1999 Joan of Arc remake [The Messenger] ||

i think it's safe to say Morissey had a thing for dead celebrities & historical figures | the Bigmouth single had a photograph of James Dean on the cover | & before The Smiths were formed Morissey wrote a book called James Dean Is Not Dead ||

sometimes i am overwhelmed by how short life is | you could spend a lifetime digesting the works of one other human being—yet alone the cumulative sum ||

using known historical figures in your fiction might be a crutch but it's also convenient—why bother to develop fictional characters when there's so many ones out there in the public domain that people can relate too already? | rather than wasting pages developing characters Haskell digs deeper into what we already know | in «Narrow Road» he proclaims that «The poet has no identity.» or rather Haskell has Keats say this [to his true love Fanny Brawne] as a justification as to why for Keats true love [the realization of] is unobtainable & if Fanny were to kiss him she'd only discover he wasn't her prince after all or at least this was his fear | again—people not being who you think they are or even who they think they are—you starting to see a pattern here?

i met John Haskell in the flesh when he was in Rome a few weeks ago | i met him under the statue of Giordano Bruno in Campo d'Fiori | like Joan of Arc—you could say Giordano Bruno knew who he was & was burned at the stake as a consequence | Haskell doesn't mention Bruno in his books but he does talk about Galileo who although he didn't get burned alive for his heliocentric beliefs like Bruno did he lived out his life under house arrest for refusing to budge on the issue | & to think now you can go look at his tooth & severed fingers in a museum up north in Florence ... the subject of another post ||
Galileo's finger
Galileo's Finger

anyhow i had a drink with Haskell then we got dinner in Piazza Farnese | John [or Jack Haskell—the narrator in Out of My Skin] was here for some sort of artist residency up in Umbria & he wanted to see some of Rome before he went back to Brooklyn | we talked about his books some & he he told me that American Purgatorioamazon was the one i should've read | unfortunately i didn't bring that one with me | some others met us after including some guy who spoke 8 languages & looked exactly like the French actor Dominique Pinon & more & more Romans & mojitos wedged themselves between me & Jack/John & then he hopped on his rented motorino & was off & that's the last i saw of him | i didn't take any photos to document the event though i did capture this shot of the stylin' NY Tyrant who was visiting a few days before:

Giancarlo Ditrapano

Giancarlo Ditrapano could be considered a celebrity in his own right | someone should write a book about him | or his bulldog | though he already writes about himself not needing to be something other than what he is [channeling the spirit of Ignatius T. Reilly] ||

the only stuff i can read & write these days is narrative fiction | it is the only believable form though it is only interesting if you lie or your life is interesting enough | Gian is one of those that doesn't need to lie to be interesting | problem is he is too busy living to write about it | i myself need to lie | i am not a NY Tyrant |
i am not Abe Lincoln |
i am not Giancarlo Ditrapano |
i am not Ignatius T. Reilly |
i am not John C. Reilly |
i am not James Spader |
i am not James Dean |
i am not Soupy Sales|
i am not Ganesha |
i am not Luc Besson |
i am not Chris March |
i am not John Haskell |
i am not Keats though at this point i have already lived in Rome longer than Keats did before he died [3+ months] | Gian used to live in Rome now he lives in NYC | Morissey used to live in Rome or maybe he still does |
i am not Morissey | i must say Morissey isn't truly Morissey without the help of Johnny Marr though Gian would probably disagree |
i am not Luca Brasi |
i am not Laika the Russian space dog |
i am not Romulus nor Remus |
i am not Stanley Tucci |
i am not Don Henley |
i am not Jackson Pollock |
i am not Christopher Walken |

Jean-Philippe Toussaint: Running Away

i am not Jean-Philippe Toussaint but i recently read his Running Away | Toussaint is even deadpanner than Haskell | to be honest i was a bit bored initially though there was something intriguing about how non-reactive & lackadaisical the [unnamed] narrator is | he goes to Shanghai & allows himself to fall into a series of misadventures—sort of plodding along & not questioning the strangeness of some of the situations he finds himself in | we don't really know why he is going to China—he is given a vague mission that is not relevant to the story but presumably it's somewhat illicit as a rather large sum of money exchanges hands | in the process of being literally shanghaiED he loses himself & becomes so absorbed in the events at hand that he forgets about his prior existence back in France |

things get stranger & the pace picks up as the narrator is accompanied by a suspicious yet emotionless business associate [Zhang Xiangzhi] who is always polite but doesn't let the narrator in on the secret | & the narrator doesn't bother to ask questions | his interests lie more in a girl Qi Li whom he almost has an affair with in the bathroom of a train bound for Beijing but they are interrupted by his cell phone ringing [with his girlfriend Marie on the other end back in Paris] ||

in the second half of the book he is trying to make it to the island of Elba of all places [the island Napoleon was exiled to off the coast of Italy—that i'm now inspired to visit] in time for Marie's father's funeral & to reconcile the growing distance between them ||

whereas in Out of my Skin the escape mechanism is impersonation—the escape mechanism in Running Away is [as the title would suggest] travel | the jet-lagged narrator loses himself by going to China & allowing himself to be sucked into a mysterious underworld that is so foreign to him that he forgets who he is | here's a sentence from the moment he is snapped out of it:

«Eyes closed and standing still, I was listening to Marie's voice coming from thousands of kilometers away, her voice which I could hear despite the countless lands that separated us, despite the steppes and immeasurable other plains, despite the expanse of the night and it's gradation of colors spread across the surface of the earth, despite the mauve light of a Siberian dusk and the first orange streaks left by a sun setting on the cities of Eastern Europe, I was listening to Marie speaking faintly in the early evening sunlight of Paris, her frail voice reaching me, sounding more or less the same as ever, in the late night of the train, literally transporting me, as thoughts, dreams, and books can do, when, releasing the mind from the body, the body remains still and the mind travels, swelling and expanding, while gradually, behind our closed eyes, images are born, and other memories, feelings, and states of being surge into view, pains and buried emotions are reawakened, as well as fears and joys and multitude of sensations—while blood pounds in our temples, our heartbeats accelerate, and we feel ourselves shaken, as if a fissure had cracked the sea of tears frozen in each of us.»

when i read Toussaint's book j was traveling in Kenya & Ethiopia so maybe i was susceptible to the otherwise cheap emotion of his writing |

i am not Jean-Philippe Toussaint |
i am not Dominique Pinon |
i am not Steve Martin |
i am not Roberto Benigni |
i am not j [but i may as well be as i've spent more time staring at her than anything else] |
i am not Dr. J |
i am not Bashō |
i am not Vladimir Ladyzhenskiy |
i am not David Markson |
i am not John Malkovich |

i am not Kevin Bacon's stand-in |
i am not Brutus |
i am not Spartacus |
i am not Napoleon |
it's a cheap trick i know | saying names i am NOT in order that they come up in google you might think |
i am not you |
thing is these names are way too far down into the meat of the text to be important so will only come up for these people that have google alerts for their own names which i don't think includes Napoleon |
otherwise hello |
i am not Rick Nielsen |
i am not Rick James |
i am not Bas Jan Ader |
i am not Lucretius |
i am not Ricky Ricardo |
i am not Superman |
i am not Michael Stipe |
i am not Nietzsche |
i am not Warren Beatty |
i am not Schopenhauer |
i am not Sonny Bono |
i am not Bo Diddley |
i am not Derek White |
i am not even Cal A. Mari though if you're my «friend» on facebook you might think so | CALvin is my favorite name though | my grandfather was Cal & my dad's middle name & name he went by was Cal |
i am not Calvin nor Hobbes |
i am not Sal Mineo |
i am not William White though evidently i had a relative with such a name that came over on the Mayflower | i guess you could say i am American |
i am not Roman Polanski |
i am not Franz Liszt |
whenever i think of the sentence «i am not ...» i think of No Martyr by the legendary & seminal Avengers | it starts out like this...

i am not the lamb
i am not jesus
i am not ready to sacrifice my innocence
i am not ready to talk to you about politics
i am not ready to taste your corruption
i don't want your money
or your fame and fortune
no, you mean nothing to me
i don't need you
i know you look at me and say
"here's something I can use, abuse"
but, i'm not going for it
i'm innocent and i'm young
but i'm not so naive
that i'd fall for it ...

Italy could use some bands like this | the time is ripe for it |

& while we're talking about the Avengers & shedding Amerikanism there's this other number where Penelope twists JFK's words around: «ask not what you can do for your country / but what your country's been doing to you»:

& whenever i think of the strung-together word combination «i will not» i will forever think of PJ Harvey [Pig Will Not] | she owns it:

but i am not PJ Harvey |
nor will i be |
i would not eat green eggs and ham |
i do not like them Sam i am |
i am not Penelope Houston |
i am not JFK |
i am not Penelope Spheeris |
i am not the Penelope |
i am not Ulysses |
i am not Telemachus |
i am not Kevin White |
i am not my brother's keeper |
i am not Noah |
however i am human |
i am 96% chimpanzee |
i am even 70% sea sponge |
i am the accumulation of every species that came before me but no one in particular |

& i also made a new series of collages [i guess you could call them that—2 of them i already showed above] while dwelling on these concepts of IDentity & REinvention & what [i am] not | materials & elements used include: { charcoal | ink | watercolors | scotch tape | barcodes | found postcards & letters | stencils | dead Kindle rubbings | 1 dead fetal bird | chicken foot prints | my fingerprints | credit card frottage | a hex wrench [also used to fix flat tires] | discarded food packaging | photos from various natural history museums | photos from Ellis Island | tinfoil | residual text from: { chapter 5 of my own \∀/RK Côd∃X | Codice Tributario dell'Africa Italiana | Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One by Nietzsche } } click on the images to see in more detail | if you're interested in purchasing any they are $150 [includes INTL shipping] | more on my new «art» page [although i am not an «artist»] | you could say these are what i am at the moment | or not ||

orchIDaceae shePHerd shampoo

ID 3: orchIDaceae shePHerd shampoo [in solution]


fetID ENtitty [al dente]

ID 4: fetID ENtitty [al dente]


equIDae queggo obra ID

ID 5: equIDae queggo [obra ID]


eL L[x]isTence ISland

ID 6: eL L[x]isTence ISland [quarantined]


luCidITY quoTiENT [Roma]

ID 7: luCidITY quoTiENT [Roma circa 1849]


HominID americanUS [non-reGENerative issue]

ID 8: HominID americanUS [non-reGENerative iSSue]


hexIDe brine codice

ID 9: hexIDe brine codice [cubed]


I M kNot bRind

ID 10: I M kNot bRind [gambe]



ID 11: EGOrillIaD [in VESTigial]


homonID boneScrypt

ID 12: homonID boneScrypt [RibPed]


spay your own pet [abs tract]

ID 13: spay your own pet [abs tract]




(copyright is a dinosaur) 2010 Derek White