Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Last Busking Post, I Swear

I actually busked last night. It was glorious. I'm in a bit of a rush, so I'll just go over some highlights:

  • The logistics: I busked from ten of 7 to ten of 8. Per the official busking code of practice, buskers cannot busk for more than an hour at any one of the officially sanctioned busking locations (there are ten total). Buskers can only busk from 10 in the morning until 8 at night, so I was running up against a deadline there.
  • I busked at the corner of Market Street and Cornmarket Street. Apparently, markets are segregated in Oxford between those that sell corn and those that don't. I get it, I don't want corn spoiling my markets either. (Cornmarket Street, is a pedestrian only area where most of the tourists frequent. There is a Burger King and a KFC on Cornmarket. Classy).
  • I chose that location because it meant I could play underneath an overhang. It was extremely cloudy with some light rain at times, so the coverage was vital in order to protect my rented cello. I almost didn't busk when I saw it was raining a little bit. I'd put the temperature at about 60 degrees. It was certainly brisk.
  • As I expected, there weren't many people out. Due to my afternoon nap, I came much later than I hoped. I think most people were at dinner or home. It also was a Tuesday night. Not exactly a Sunday afternoon...
  • Regardless, I made 30 pounds! That's about $55 an hour (probably more than I would make as a lawyer). It cost me 240 quid to rent the cello. If I can keep up a rate of 30 pounds an hour, I'll only need to busk for seven more hours to make back my investment! That is my goal. We shall see.
  • There are some minor busking issues. First, I am a bit of a one trick pony right now. I've really only been working on one Bach suite since I got my cello on Saturday. In order to fill an hour, I could play it three times, (risking the dreaded, "OMG, he keeps playing the same shit over and over again" reaction) or I could work on some new material. Considering that I have pages and pages of reading to do and exams next week, this could prove difficult. I suppose I could attempt to swallow a sword the second time through and light myself on fire the third time through. I fear though that this would prevent me from busking further. Thoughts?
  • Second busking issue: my busking depends on good weather. I was lucky that it was only raining a bit. I would not be able to play in actual sustained rain. The overhang does not go out that far and any splashing of the cello would destroy it. Cellos are fragile pieces of wood. Old wood and water are not a good mix. In order to pay the owner of the instrument the value of the instrument (I'd estimate, based on what I paid to rent it, that it's worth somewhere around 4,000 quid), I'd probably have to busk until my fingers fall off. It's raining right now. Hopefully it doesn't rain next week, when I plan on busking my ass off.
  • I was nervous at first. It's weird to sit down in the middle of a public area and just start playing a musical instrument as loud as you can. Why did I try to play so loudly? Because cellos don't project outside. We need enclosed spaces to sound good. Thus, I was blasting away in order to push the sound out to a general area. I just closed my eyes in order to block out my surroundings, but a pretty constant clinking of silver against my cello case can be distracting. Most people waited until I finished a movement to come up and drop money in, which was kind.
  • A pair of young Japanese girls approached me while I was playing and asked if they could videotape me playing. I kept playing, and said sure. One proceeded to come behind me and smile while the other recorded her standing next to me. I was sort of curious whether they wanted me to stop in order to get a picture, but she seemed not to understand me when I asked her if she wanted me to stop. So, I just kept sawing away. They seemed happy and dropped some silver into my case and left.
  • Some other interesting moments included the time when a group of young Oxford punks walked briskly by and one of them flicked a pound into my case as the others smiled. This took me a bit by surprise. Who knew they liked Bach?
  • One gentleman in particular leaned up against the post next to me and listened as I played almost entirely through the suite. I thanked him in between movements and he said that he was a big fan of Bach.
  • Once I ran out of material, I repeated the first Bach suite again and I noticed another fellow across the street stay through the whole thing (it takes about 25 minutes). That's dedication, people. When I finished, I started packing up and he came up and told me what a good job I did. It turned out that he was a pianist/bass clarinetist from Canada (and he had the accent to back it up), hence the interest.
  • The nerves drifted away after about the first fifteen minutes. From that point on, I just started working on different things as I played. It was like getting paid to practice. I'd play through a movement focusing on a certain musical idea or bowstroke, seeing what sounded the best. It was kind of cool to feel that comfortable even as people intermittently stopped and listened or just floated on by.
  • All in all, I'd call my first busking experiment a 30 pound success. Hopefully there will be more busking glory in my near future. If there are pictures, I will be sure to post them.
  • Happy hump day!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Busking Win!

Okay, so I didn't play today, but I did manage to get my busking permit! I now have an official Oxford City Council busking permit. It's got my picture on it, my signature (saying that I will not violate their "Busking Code of Practice), and their nice little code of practice on the back.

Here are some do's and don'ts:

Do: "Smile, enjoy yourself and entertain others!"

Hahaha! So lame!

Shut it.

Don't: "Perform in a manner that is dangerous to yourself or to the public."

Duly noted. I will try not to impale myself with my cello.

Do: "Only perform within the designated entertainment areas."

Why do they have to hate on music. It's not like you're protesting. You and that card are so lame.

Anger rising.

Don't: "Position yourself on a footway or highway in such a way that could be deemed as begging by passers by or the Police e.g. sitting on or wrapped in a sleeping bag or blanket."

Hahahaha! Looks like you're shit out of luck, buddy!

Son. Of. A. Bitch. How am I supposed to make money? Ah. Awwwwww. I guess I'm going to have to start shaving again.

Do: "Hold an Oxford City Council busker's permit."


Ya, but wait until people see the picture on your permit. People will start asking YOU for money.

Dude, I'm tired. Stop trying to hold a man down. I'm going to rock it out tomorrow. You'll see...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Busking Fail

So, when I arrived here, the director of the program requested that I perform solo Bach cello for the group. In an attempt to be kind, I said, suuuuuuure, why not? After two weeks of failing to secure a cello for free, I finally broke down and rented one yesterday. The cost? 240 quid. In US dollars, that's about $450. Balls.

On my way home, I was having severe buyer's remorse. Could I have negotiated him down? He gave me a deal on it, but was it worth it to spend that kind of money on a rental cello? I'm only going to have it for two weeks! GAH!

Then a thought came to me, I could busk! I've never busked before but it seems fairly easy; just sit and play on the street and hope people toss some pounds into your case. I thought today would be a fine day to do such a thing, since it's a Sunday and all.

Just in an attempt to do my due diligence, I put the terms "busking" and "oxford" into google search. This unfortunatly led me to the Oxford City Council's restrictions on busking. It turns out, I need a permit. Suck, suck, suckitude.

Although it seems fairly easy to get a permit, that means today's out. In my mind, Sundays were a total cash cow. I thought I'd dress up as a beggar and play the shit out of my cello and then people would start making it rain all around me. Sadly, I will have to hope this is the usual Monday scenario (if they give me a permit).

Um, sorry to interject, but shouldn't you be studying, instead of attempting to make money on the streets of Oxford? Aren't you retired anyway? And what about your "I only play when drunk" policy?

A. I have time to commit a couple of hours each day to busking. I'll just have to cut down on my leisure activities, like sleeping.

2. I'm in the UK. I'm pretty sure the musicians' union doesn't have narcs over here.

iii. Oh, I'll be drunk (kidding, kidding).

I'll keep you (my one reader) posted.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Urgent House Elf Update...

They are reading this blog! No sooner did I post about their lack of room cleanage did they show up and clean my room! They even cleaned my sink and vacuumed my floor! Oh glorious day. Thank you, house elves. Thank you. I shall free you all once I leave (as long as you continue to clean my room while I'm here...and don't mouth off).

That reminds me, I forgot to mention that I have a sink in my room (but no bathroom). This has turned out to be quite a luxury. I would call the sink the MVP (most valuable part) of my room so far. Every morning, instead of grudgingly trodding off to some shared bathroom to brush my teeth, I merely have to walk a few steps to my very own sink! Need a glass of water? No problem, I'll just head over to my sink! Oh, what's that? You got a stain on your shirt? No worries, I'll just wash it in my sink! Yes, this has made me quite the badass around these parts.

You're aware that others have their own sinks too, right?

Ah, awwwwww. You're such a debbie downer, italics dude. Brb, going to mess with their plumbing. House elves are terrible plumbers.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Quick Hits

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've been illin for the past few days. Again?!? Yes, again. Immune system FAIL.

Below are some things I've been meaning to write about:

1. I'm going to get hit by a car and die.
One would think after a week and a half that I would know which way to look when crossing the street, but no, not even close. The first day I was here, I looked left and then crossed the street only to hear the sounds of a cyclist screeching to a very sudden and angry halt. My bad! This morning, I thought to myself, "look to your right, look to your right, look to your right." What did I do when crossing the street? Looked to my left. GAH. This will be the end of me.

2. The house elves read this blog.

And they were offended by it. Since my post, not one has come to take the trash out of my room or make my bed. Either Hermione has been leaving more of her shitty, knitted hats underneath the trash in order to set them free, or they hate me. I miss coming home to the scene of my bed made and my teddy bear on top of the pillow. You have a teddy bear, AND YOU BROUGHT IT TO OXFORD?!? You're such a fucking hater.

3. The weather here stinks.

Okay, so it's actually good for me, not so much for others. It's perma-fall here. Contrast that to the soup that is DC in the summer and I think it's pretty great. The only drawback is that I brought mostly t-shirts, so my two sweaters are getting some wear and tear.

4. We have a long weekend this weekend.

Where are you going? Paris, London, Rome? I'm going to sit in my room and catch up on everything I missed while illing over the past couple of days. Dude, that's so lame and sad. I fucking know, alright? With luck, I'll finish by Sunday and head up to Lichfield to visit a friend of mine. We shall see. You make me sad. Suck it, italics dude.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Last night was my first Oxford formal dinner. This is a tradition that really must come to the states. Americans need more excuses to dress up (and by dress up, I mean wear classy clothes, not the douchebag uni that kids wear on NYC Prep). We also need more opportunities to get shitfaced around our professors. Ya, that last one was fun for me. For others? Not so much (unless the profs like getting hit on by drunken Americans, then it's fun for everyone!).

For those of you who don't know, a formal dinner requires the men to show up in a jacket and tie. Ladies must wear whatever constitutes chick formal wear. Normally I would take these opportunities to show up my fellow man by coming ridiculously overdressed. I thought I would class it up a little this time though, since there were Brits present. Sadly, I just wore a suit. Picture: here.

Side note, I just looked out my window and saw the largest pigeon I've ever seen sitting in a tree outside my window. What the fuck? That thing's almost as big as a cat. I'm pretty sure if it tried to fly, its wings would refuse.

I digress, yes, so the formal dinner. Everyone looked lovely. It was nice to see people outside the classroom setting and see the professors and their families seated at the head table. The food was good, the section 12* company was fun, and the drinks were awesome. Good times for all.

*This would be section 12 version 2.0, not the incomparable section 12 beta.

Friday, July 17, 2009


I really should have posted this yesterday but between class, my (three hour) afternoon nap, and homework, I didn't find the time. Anyway, I saw Harry Potter on Wednesday night. At a theater in Oxford. Next to a kid holding a wand (drumstick). Awesome.

I thought the movie was brilliant, mostly because it brought me back to my high school days of having my food laced with love potions (in muggle terms: roofies). In all seriousness, it's far better than the fifth. I highly recommend it.

As for the viewing experience, I'd give the Oxford movie theater a solid troll (in muggle terms: an F-). When we got our tickets, we noticed that our seats were assigned. This can be a good or bad thing. Our seats were very bad. They were in the second to last row of a smallish theater. Stadium seating? Check. Air conditioning? Fail. What's that spell? A gang of ornery Americans feverishly shedding layers and trying to sweat through a three hour movie.

All melting aside, it was cool to see a Harry Potter movie in Oxford. Through most of the movie, I could see remnants of the halls we spend our days in. It was also cool to see how a young, English crowd would respond to the high school shenanigans. Let's just say, there was cheering when a certain someone kissed a certain someone. No, I wasn't cheering. I was sweating. More than the actors, but for slightly different reasons. Oh, the good times in Oxford.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Existential Issues

So, I'm going to see Harry Potter tonight at a theater in Oxford. If I see a movie about Hogwarts while at Hogwarts what does that mean? Am I falling through the looking glass? When I leave the theater, will I be a muggle in a sea of wizards? Will I return to my room and see Dobby making the bed?

That reminds me, every day I come back to my room to something magical; my bed made! I never see anyone come in or out of my room. I surely don't do it myself. They even empty the trash for me and tidy up a bit. How have Americans been living all these years without house elves? I think I made my bed and cleaned my room twice this year, only because I couldn't stand the withering glare of my roommate who shall not be named. And I did it myself! I might've even broken a sweat! Gah!

PS- Sorry for the angst yesterday. It's been glorious outside here and not being able to enjoy it has been killing me. Today, I managed to get my work done quickly, so I shall be reveling in the glory that is Oxford for the rest of the evening. I wish everyone could be here (considering I most likely have a readership of one, I wish you, my lone reader, could be here).

PPS- The above photo is of the "front quadrangle" at New College, otherwise known as the place Harry was taught quidditch in the first film. The building on the left is where we eat (the Chapel), the thing in the middle is "Muniment Tower," and the building on the right is the "Old Bursary." You see those stairs leading up Muniment Tower? I climb those every day to get into the Chapel for my meals. Glorious. Simply glorious.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Drowning in Pages...

Like all blogs, this will be a forum entirely devoted to whining. Right now, I'm in Oxford, England. It's beautiful, historic, inspiring, blah, blah, blah. But do you know what I spend my day doing? Reading about how horrible humans are to other humans around the world.

But Jonathan, you're in law school. This is a program run by your law school. You should have seen this coming.

Thanks, ya, I know. The thing is, when I'm in Foggy Bottom, I don't care that I don't have time to take a scenic walk to the GW Hospital Emergency Room or chow down at ABP. When I'm in freaking Europe, I want to drown myself in Pimm's and scale walls and shit. This is just wrong.

Dude, it can't be that bad.

Fine, you do my reading, you paternalistic bastard.


Sunday, July 12, 2009


A friend of mine, who happens to be a prolific blogger, suggested that I blog about my experience in Oxford. Although I considered this thing dead, I thought that was a pretty good idea. Better this than mass emails, right? I'll try really hard not to be as lame as the blogger who shall not be named.

Anyway, I arrived at Oxford at 2PM and checked in. This was after a rather uncomfortable flight that consisted of little to no sleep. I'd flown Virgin America in the past and thought it rocked. Virgin Atlantic does not rock. It feels like Virgin America's bastard child. The planes are much older, the economy seats are ridiculously narrow, and there's no leg room. I seriously had to move to the bulkhead in order to gain some semblance of comfort. Upgrade for the return flight? You betcha.

The best part of the trip was the bus-ride to Oxford from Heathrow. The bus was really nice and clean, it had wireless, and outlets. The outlets thing would have been awesome if I'd remembered to buy a converter at the airport. Oh well. Ironically, the bus was the first place I managed to get some sleep.

I think that's enough for now. To give you a sense of where I'm at and what I'm up to, here's a pic of the college I'm staying at: Look familiar? Ya, they filmed parts of Harry Potter there. I know. It's awesome.