1. i fell ill on Friday, after riding a tram packed with students. The dizziness and cold weren´t so bad, but my lungs packed in and i´ve spent the weekend wheezing like a dying Darth Vader. i´ve gone through way too much asthma medication and am very aware of how close i am to death, that, for example, sprinting down the street for 30 seconds would probably instigate a lethal attack. If a doctor saw me i would be harangued and hospitalised, but i don´t have medical insurance and in any case can´t afford to stop working. So i have endured, and slept. When not asleep i´ve been reading Plato and Helen Pinkerton, listening to Mahler´s 8th Symphony, and enjoying my solitude.

2. Last week i met Gordon, a cognitive psychologist i know via my hippy flatmate. We were joined by another psychologist friend of his and Gordon asked him, “on Jung´s extroversion/introversion scale, what would you say Elberry is, 0 is totally introverted, 10 totally extroverted.”

Psychologist No 2, who i´d known for about an hour at this point, said: “He goes from 2 to 8, nothing in-between.” A bimodal distribution, as someone once said. My various illnesses encourage my reclusion – when you can´t breathe properly, conversation is out of the question, and i can almost escape my bodily discomfort through literature, music, film.

However, there seems some inner need for company, which reasserts itself after a few weeks, albeit gently. The longest i´ve gone without any conversation beyond “yes”, “no”, “can I have a bag?” and “thank you”, was 5 weeks, in i think 2002, and even then i just felt vaguely restless, not lonely. Gordon told me that my hippy flatmate notes with concern that he hardly ever sees me, and i don´t seem open to social contact. i explained that, leaving my flat before 7 am, working all day, and returning at about 9 pm, leaves me little energy or interest in socialising, especially with hippies. This is a strange life, teaching – i am surrounded by people, i am paid the grand sum of 15 Euros an hour to talk and listen, and yet i feel curiously isolated from any normal human contact.

3. Perhaps this is partly because i can´t seem to learn German – i had some German lessons but still can´t say the most basic things, and can´t understand anything anyone says to me. Since so much of human intercourse is to do with language, i feel starkly spectral, unable to say more than “ich komme aus england” and “ich spreche kein deutsch” (no shit).

In a sense it is only right that the language should be difficult for me, that i should speak with difficulty, if at all.

4. i saw JCVD this evening. A very good film, surprising and human, well-crafted, well-acted, unobvious, satisfying.

The premise is very like one i had 6 years ago, after watching a DVD extra with JCVD explaining why on-screen fighting isn´t like real life. He looked so old and sad, and human, flawed, i felt “what a great character he could be”. i had seen him in the corny but funny The Order, where he was surprisingly good as a comic figure, and i wondered how differently his career might have evolved had he played on his rubbery, expressive face, his innate goofiness and comedy value as a Belgian. i constructed a film script from this – with JCVD in his late 40s, taking shit parts in Hollywood, separated from his wife and daughter, etc. It stalled about 45 minutes in and rather than contrive a standard action thriller conclusion i decided to just put it on ice. It was one of my favourite film ideas and so i was slightly vexed to find someone had pretty much developed the same idea; however, the film is really good.

The film is in part a meditation on fame. JCVD cannot walk down a street in Belgium without being recognised, hounded, adored, criticised. A taxi driver tells him “you´re nicer on screen”. Disconcerting, to be judged by such standards. As in Unforgiven and Hamlet, he burns through the drama by accepting his fate, or his fictive persona, what other people think of him, what other people expect, but with some ironic displacement. And irony there must be in fame.

i guess the film would surprise those who see JCVD as a non-actor. But i think most people – perhaps everyone – can act, as long as the script is good, and appropriate to their character (see Predator also).

5. i have to teach at 0730 tomorrow. i´m curious to see if i can get enough oxygen to speak, or if i´ll just wheeze horribly at my students. Luckily, it´s a short day – only teaching till 3 pm, so i should get through it.

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