Monday, December 11, 2017

#8 Is Chanuka the Jewish Christmas?

The answer will probably not surprise you.

This one is personal. When our children were little; our daughter was in second grade and our son was kindergarten, we switched from being a family who celebrated both to all Jew, all Chanuka. All the time.

The kids took it pretty hard.

My daughter wrote about it. Good essay, I recommend it.

And my son...well, let's just say he worked it out on stage.

Ben Shearn as "Jew, The Obscure"

We are all fine. Maybe a little confused from time to time. Like you aren't!!!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

#7 Favorite Chanuka Characters

When you start a holiday with an insurrection, follow it up with a civil war, and fight off invading armies for over a hundred years, it's not easy to come up with lovable, cuddly characters.

At least, that was my experience working on this video.

Andy Kaufman at Latka (not in the video but I highly recommend Jim and Andy

Saturday, December 9, 2017

#6 Traditional Family Observances

This being Shabbat (or Shabbas), I don't expect many Jews to be watching this. There is pretty basic material that Jews learn in Hebrew School or if you are traditionally observant "school."

As this is episode 6, I am thankful that I am not doing the 12 Days of Christmas or the 29 or 30 days of Ramadan.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Episode 5: Don's Top 8 Chanuka Hits

Here is a link to most of these tunes. There are some really cool songs out there. Regrettably, I couldn't find Sammy Davis Jr. doing any Chanuka tunes. Or any of the Rat Pack.

I also plan to do my blues rendition of "Dreidl."

"I have a little dreidl, it goes everywhere with me/I have a little dreidl, it goes everywhere with me.

But what's the use of my dreidl, if my baby ain't with me."

Thursday, December 7, 2017

#4 The Chanukah Food Groups

Today, I explore why Jews eat oily food and dairy during Chanukah. As for the rest of the year, you are on your own.

You might not know the story of Judith of Bethulia. A pious widow who was known for her cooking ...well let's just say she used her blade for more than slicing cheese.

 Caravaggio (and kind of a spolier)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

#3 The Miracle of the Oil

For all you sticklers for detail (and I suspect I know who you are) here are a few links that discuss the Miracle of the Oil with intelligence and research.

I like Malka Simkovich's article about the "political" reasons for adding a miracle 600 years after the "fact."

My Jewish Learning has an oddly contemporary feel to it.

Here is my video. It's just odd.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

#2 Not for Gentiles Only: The Book of Maccabees

The Book of Maccabees which is the foundation of the Chanukah is not found in the Hebrew Bible. Nor in the Protestant Bible (except as part of the Apocrypha, works of 'dubious' origin.)

It is found in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bible.

There are several theories as to why this Book is not part of the Jewish Canon. I would tell you myself but I have to go shopping for dinner.

Here is a link that might help you with all of that. Why the Maccabees aren't in the Bible.

And enjoy Episode 2:

Monday, December 4, 2017

1. #Not for Gentiles Only: How to Spell and Pronounce Upcoming Jewish Holiday

It's Holiday time again. And there is the one with Santa and the Wise Men. The mistletoe and holly. There is one with 7 candles placed in a Kinara and reading the 7 Principles. And then there is the Jewish one.

This is the first of 8 posts explaining, deconstructing, and having fun with the holiday which begins on the 25th of Kislev.

Monday, November 27, 2017

HONG KONG BLUES Nanowrimo Edition

This video documents my attempt to write a novel in a month. Nanowrimo is an online writing project that I have completed 5 times.

This is the first year I did it as an unemployed person. Having had more time to work on the book, I noticed a few things. E.G. There is a plot. There are fewer long passages copied from the Internet and some of the writing makes sense.

Along the way, I checked in on FACEBOOK with Chiwrimos and they are a diverse and interesting lot to be sure. There is a wrap party on Sunday, December 2 that I am planning to attend.

Unless I chicken out which I have done every other year.

It is fun to be a writer for a month. My question is where do I go from here. Obviously staying in the basement is imperative. But the funny thing is I don't HAVE to do anything.

I could post something every day.  Edit Hong Kong Blues. Use my Hong Kong footage and make it a mini-doc. Practice guitar.

And/or do something for other people. Any suggestions on that. Seriously.

Here is today's video. Thanks for subscribing to Don's Basement.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving: Can't We All Get Along?

Today in a special holiday edition, Don's Basement suggests that we treat Thanksgiving as a day of peace and reconciliation.

We can go back to fighting with each other on Friday.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Museum of the Bible: Don's Basement Translation with Credits

The guy from Hobby Lobby and his friends are opening a Museum of the Bible in DC. They made a classy video.

It called out to me.

This is the result.


I could not have made this video without um, borrowing clips from movies, songs, comedy routines and other assorted silliness.

A few thoughts.

Most people I know only heard about Hobby Lobby because of their opposition to a provision of the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby specifically objected to several forms of birth control including the IUD which they believed terminated a living fetus. As such, it violated their religious principles. 

I personally think this was a hypocritical move because as a corporation they bought much of their product from China, a country that allows and encourages abortion as a method of population control.

I also had a personal dog in the fight. When I was still working, Hobby Lobby tested one of our companies products but did not reorder. So, the hell with them and their Biblical crap.

In their video, they take the viewer on a Biblical Acid Trip which ends up at their new museum. 

Scene 1: Mt. Sinai. I could have used the Mel Brooks gag from History of the World Part 1 but I had just used it in the 5 Minutes of Krinsky post. Instead, I went with Wholly Moses starring Dudley Moore and Laraine Newman (and many others including Richard Pryor.)

Scene 2: Writing the Torah Scrolls and having the Romans barge in. This was a no-brainer. The Life of Brian has a wonderful Roman shakedown scene. Youtube only had a grainy portion of it available and I didn't want search through the whole movie to get better quality. BTW. Everything you need to know about partisan politics and religion is included in The Life of Brian.

Scene 3: A guy on a white horse whom I am guessing carrying the scrolls somewhere. It reminded me of Lawrence of Arabia.  If I recut the video, I would have included Peter O'Toole and those piercing blue eyes.

Scene 4: Then the Hobby Lobby video skips about 1500 years to Gutenberg and printed bible. A Youtube group called the History Teachers make these parody videos. This one is to Blondie's Sunday Girl. It's a pretty cool video. 

Scene 5: Martin Luther. Spent probably an hour gleaning through Prairie Home Companion, Lutheran Joke Sites. (You might a Luthern have more than five flavors of Jell-O in your pantry.) Finally found another parody song by the History Teachers to the tune of Manic Monday by the Bangles.

Scene 6: Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel had me thinking about the Jackie Mason joke, "It took Michelangelo 20 years to paint a ceiling. The man was a putz. I've got a brother-in-law. Two rooms and a toilet. A couple of days. But Jackie Mason has lost his mind and I couldn't find a clip. I had to with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  

Scene 7: Galileo, I guess. Not sure how it relates to the Bible but it made me think of Bohemian Rhapsody which I had just used for my Scare-a Mooch post. Remember that guy. Lasted a week. Instead, here is Jake Shimabukuro's incredible version of that tune.

Scene 8: Some white people crossing the ocean to come to America. I say it was the pilgrims. I used Malcolm X's Plymouth Rock explanation.

Scene 9: The signing of the Declaration of Independence. Had to be Stan Freeberg Presents The United States of America This is the scene where Thom asked Ben to sign the document because "We've had it with that Royal Jazz."

Scene 10: Abraham Lincoln working on the Emancipation Proclamation. Immediately, I thought Bob Newhart Abe Lincoln vs Madison Avenue. Prescient comments about the power of advertising in politics.

Scene 11: The Civil War brought to mind Rocky and Bullwinkle and League of Confederate Correctors. This was episode 4 of a 5 part series from the 1963-1964 season. 

Scene 12: The final scenes show the freedom of the slaves and Martin Luther King addressing the crowd for his "I Have a Dream Speech." This was somewhat dispiriting search. The Internet can be a nasty racist place so I stopped looking for jokes. Instead found a scene from Forrest Gump where he runs through the reflecting pond to embrace Jenny, the love of his life. 

That's how I spent my Monday. Thanks for reading, viewing, being a friend or relative.

Peace out!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Trump Goes to China:

President Trump and First Lady Melania are in the midst of their visit to Asia. According to the White House "President Trump will venture to China where he and President Xi Jinping will discuss ways to continue to apply pressure on North Korea. During the State Visit, President Trump will also stress the unsustainability of China’s unfair trade practices that have produced a massive trade deficit, and the President will reaffirm his determination to defend America’s economic interests."

I think we can all agree and say good luck with all of that.

Based on my several trips to China, I can offer practical and fun suggestions.

Hand Sanitizer: Apply liberally (pardon the expression)

Yang Chow Fried Rice:  From an early draft of Hong Kong Blues; "The Chinese think they are more worthy to rule the world than America. That could be. It’s possible in our lifetimes we will find out. As of now, it’s an open question. but let me have my Yang Chow Fried Rice and don't judge me "

 Funny Signs: Hilarious

Great Wall: Click to see the top 30 Great People to Have Visited the Great Wall.

Oddly left off the list of 30 Great People (I think I was 31st.)

Mao Zedong is still kind of revered over there: This painting by Peggy Shearn  is available for 1990.20 Yuan or $300 USD.

16" x 20": Acrylic/Mixed Media

Today's video is a reimagining of an opera. But it only has a running time 2 minutes and 45 seconds. (That woman is Japanese.)

Thanks for being Don's Basement readers. (You can subscribe by adding your e-mail to upper right corner box. Never miss another week.)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Welcome to Don's Basement: Halloween Edition

Happy Halloween to all my ghosts, ghouls, creatures of the night and relatives. In today's post, we explore this holiday and try to get the true meaning of Halloween.

Halloween began as the holiday Hop-tu-Naa which is the New Year's Eve of the Celtic New Year as celebrated on the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man (sic) is located in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. 

To celebrate Hop-tu-Naa, the people carve turnips, dance, sing songs, and I'm guessing drink O'kell's beer. 

Traditionally, divination also has taken place during Hop-tu-Naa. I suggest these two methods that have worked for me.

-Steal a salt herring from a neighbor, roast it over the fire, eat it in silence and retire to bed

Nothing says Halloween like stolen herri

-Hold a mouthful of water in your mouth and a pinch of salt in each hand as you listen to a neighbor's conversation, whereupon the first name mentioned would be that of your future spouse. (True story. This is how I knew Peggy would be my wife. )

Halloween like most holidays is an example of cultural appropriation of a pagan holiday into a formal religious one. All Hallows Eve and the three days that follow were set aside as a time for honoring the saints and praying for the recently departed souls who have yet to reach Heaven. 

Today, Halloween fun includes decorating your house with gravestones with funny sayings, inflatable cats, and horrifying realistic zombies, monsters or demons. Dressing up as a Disney or Marvel character and trick or treating. Or going to bars that have fake cobwebs on the walls and ceiling.

Today's video is a change of pace. 
Viewer discretion is advised.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Fall of Don's Basement: The Autumn Leaves

The lovely song "Autumn Leaves" was written in 1945 by Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma with lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert The title in French is"Les Feuilles MortesAny French speakers out there.


Dead Leaves.

Since 1945 Autumn Leaves has been covered, dozens of times. In 1955 Roger Williams, the pianist not the founder of Rhode Island, had a number 1 hit on the Billboard 100 Chart  (for 5 weeks--October 29-through November 29) with an instrumental version of the song. 

"Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" by The 
Four Aces preceded "Autumn Leaves" and "Sixteen Tons by Tennesee Ernie Ford followed it on the Chart.

Never covered "Autumn Leaves" 

Don's Basement fans will be interested to know that the song "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" was written as part of the score for 1955 film of the same name. The movie is set and partially filmed in Hong Kong. Don's upcoming book, Hong Kong Blues, is also set in Hong Kong but the film version will not star William Holden or Jennifer Jones because they are dead. 

Jennifer Jones in costume 
Also, the book is finished yet. 
Also, there have been no offers for the movie rights.

Here is a partial list of artists who have recorded "Autumn Leaves": Doris Day, Andy Williams (no known relation to either of the Roger Williams), Harry James, Jimmie Rodgers, Frank Sinatra, Ahmad Jamal, Vince Guaraldi, Bill Evans, The Coasters, Patti Page, The Everly Brothers, Al Hirt, Barney Kessel, Stephane Grappelli, Chet Baker, Grace Jones, Chick Correa, Keith Jarret, Rickie Lee Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Andrea Boccelli (The Dead Leaves version), Iggy Pop, Eric Clapton, Jermaine Jackson. Leslie Odom Jr, and recently Bob Dylan.

I am singling out two versions. The first and to my mind the coolest is performed by Nat King Cole. It is a Japanese version called Kareha (枯葉). 

I believe this youtube commenter gives a proper review to this video.

this is so fucking cool A french Cancion, translated to an english version, which was then translated into Japanese, and then sung by this guy in the 1950's holy fuck that's awesome.

The version that I chose for my video is from Cannonball Adderly's 1958 album, "Something Else." which features Miles Davis, Hank Jones (piano), Sam Jones (bass), and Art Blakey (drums). 

The track is just over 11 minutes. Well worth checking out. Click Here. 

My video is about two minutes and if you've read this far you might as well look at it.

The images were shot on my phone in the last few weeks.

Thanks for checking out Don's Basement.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Five Minutes of Krinsky

Books take a long time to read. We are all busy checking our phones and FACEBOOK posts or binge-watching Paw Patrol. Who has time?


32 Hours

15 Hours

My own book, The Five Books of Krinsky (available by clicking this purplish thing) takes 5 hours and 24 minutes according to Kindle. But if you skip over the boring parts you can finish it in an afternoon. (Conversely, you can start a book club/Bible study group to determine how each of the weekly Torah passages touches your own life and spend a year or more.)

At East on Central local writer's event.

To help the time-challenged, I have created The Five Minutes of Krinsky video. I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, October 9, 2017

C-SPAN INTERVIEW with Don's Basement: Day 1 of the The 5 Days of Krinsky™

On Saturday, October 14 from 1 to 4 at the Highland Park Library, local authors will offer their books for sale. While normatively I abjure any form of capitalist commerce, I bought 20 paperback copies of The Five Books of Krinsky. And they are not helping anybody where they are now.

Krinsky in his natural habitat
The Local Author's Book Fair is sponsored by East on Central, a journal of arts and letters. Peggy and I are proud to have been published by this esteemed organization.

In anticipation of this event, I am presenting what I am calling The Five Days of Krinsky™. 

From Monday, October 8 through Friday the 13th, I will post information or pictures about the Local Author

Fair, The Five Books of Krinsky, the beginning of the Torah reading cycle, large inflatable cats, and YHVH(AKA Yahweh, Adonai, El Shaddai, et al.)

The Comic Torah: Created by Aaron Freeman and Sharon Rosenzweig
Provenance unknown

In anticipation of this event, Susan Swain took time out of her interview with John Updike ( alav ha-shalom) to interview me about all things Krinsky and Don's Basement.

Thank you to anyone who is reading this.

(Views, images, and other nonsense are the work of Donsbasement and not the Highland Park Library. East on Central, C-SPAN, or any of the "callers" on the video.)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Not for Gentiles Only™ : The Fall Festivals

Hello again everybody and welcome to another edition of Not for Gentiles Only 

You may think that the Jewish Holidays are over for a while. As you know Yom Kippur ended at Sundown last Saturday, September 30 or the 10th of Tishrei on the Jewish Calendar.

Your Jewish friends have all fasted, atoned for their sins, and had a lox and bagel pizza to break the fast. (If you have sinned against a Jew or a Jew has sinned against you, it is pretty much too late to do anything about it. Try again next year.)  

Beginning on Wednesday night (October 4 or Tishrei 10), Jews will celebrate 4 holidays in 8 days or 9 days. Don’t worry about the extra day unless you live in New York and have kids in public school.

These holidays are: 


This holiday lasts 7 days in Israel and in the Torah. In the diaspora, it lasts anywhere from 8 days to 0 days depending on one's level of observance. 

You may see these types of booths in your neighborhood. This one is in our backyard.

Been very dry in Highland Park

Traditionally observant Jews eat their meals and sleep in the sukkah. You may also observe people waving a piece of fruit and some stalks and branches. 


For a holiday, I'd never heard of until last week it is pretty important. It falls on the final day of Sukkot. 

The Midrash tells us that G‑d told Abraham: “If atonement is not granted to your children on Rosh Hashanah, I will grant it on Yom Kippur; if they do not attain atonement on Yom Kippur, it will be given on Hoshana Rabbah.”  Last stop on the repentance train.

Traditionally Jews stay up all night reading the entire book of Deuteronomy (5th and final book of the Torah aka Old Testament) and After the book of Psalms and listen to  J.J. Cale.


The day after Sukkot. Celebrated the same day as Simchat Torah. Except when it isn't. 


A super popular holiday filled with dancing with the Torah and each other. And drinking. Sometimes excessive drinking. There used to be many articles on the Internet about excessive drinking during Simchat Torah. Either the drinking has been curtailed or the Internet has given up.