Hawaiian Cherries–Sarah Vowell and Others

Here is a Hawaiian blog that gets many hits each day (10,120 yesterday alone):  Cutest Kawaii Cat Gif Animations.  So, before you know anything else about Hawaiians, understand that they are not like the rest of us.

Rolling Cat, Apparently Found Only on the Island of Kauai

(Although, maybe “us” doesn’t apply.  There are only 10 of you reading this blog on a good day, and maybe each of you immediately signed up to Follow that kitty blog.)  (Okay, the bread-loaf kitty over there is cute.)

This post contains four of the more interesting details from Sarah Vowell’s book Unfamiliar Fishes, along with some more Hawaii stuff stuck in here.   Once you finish this post, you will be an expert on Hawaii and can be hired out to perform at nerd parties.  Mail or PayPal me your $9.95 and you’ll get your certificate saying so posthaste.  Would I lie to you?

Outlier Babe's Wholly Trustworthy Alternate Male Ego

This book was worth a read. To me, not as interesting as Sarah’s Wordy Shipmates (in another post), but I still got some fascinating cherry-pickings from it.  Here is a hint about the first cherry (if you’re a male still giggling every time you read that word, stick to the Disney site, and wait for your 18th birthday):

Spanking Smileys Emoticon Gif

Not Really Smileys, Are They?

Cherry 1:  He Who is Lashed First, Laughs Last

Had you already known that the elite Hawaiian school Obama attended as a child was also attended by the last of the Hawaiian royals? The fire-and-brimstone Christian who ran it back then didn’t give the three royal children enough to eat, and whipped them on their bare backs with a lash for sneaking out repeatedly at night.

Do You Think the Royal Kids Dreamed Up Revenge Fantasies?

The really sad thing was that they were sneaking out to find food because he was starving them so badly.  His harsh treatment caused the children to rebel. Instead of maturing into uptight, rigid Christians like he was, all three grew into fun-loving adults.  David Kalakua ( Ka-la-KOO-ah ), Hawaii’s last king, was known as the “Merrie Monarch.”  Hawaii’s last ruler, Queen Liliuokalani ( Lily-oo-oh Ka-LA-knee ), wrote the love song “Aloha Oe”, which must have made that old Christian missionary inside his grave look a lot like the kitty at the top of this post. Good on you, royal kiddos!

Cherry 2:  In Old Hawaii, Incest Was Best

Both Siblings AND Future Spouses?

This was a big surprise to me:  The old Hawaiians had great respect for incest; at least among their royals.  Brother-sister unions were thought to concentrate spiritual power, and children of siblings were “especially revered.”  When King Kamehameha (Ka-MAY-ha-MAY-ha ) died, the highest-ranking possible heirs were the son and daughter of one of his wives, and she was the daughter of siblings, too.  Some Hawaiians felt that Kamehameha’s children, who were 12 and 8 years old, should marry.  (Some thought they were already having sex, anyhow.  Ew.)

Forget cultural sensitivity.  Really disgusting practice.  Sarah and I agreed on that one.

Summer Glau, Perhaps Looking At Her Brother After Hearing About This

Cherry 3:  Traditional Hawaiians Place a High Value on Low Parts

Traditional Hawaiians have a high respect for their belly buttons and privates.  In the words of a Kekuni Blaisdell as quoted by Sarah:  The navel represents “each person’s anatomical attachment to [its] mother…each child is taught to respect [it], to make sure it’s clean and to reflect on its significance.”  Genitals are revered as the connection to one’s descendants.  Hawaiians even teach their keikis (KAY-keys), or  children, a little poem to remind them of these two things:

Keep your bell-y but-ton clean,
And your legs up in-be-tween;
Your bell-y-but-ton’s where you’re from;
The o-ther place?  Go ask your mom.

Okay, I lied.  The Hawaiians don’t teach their children that poem at all.  So sue me.

There is, for real, a specific genre of hula dance honoring royals, the hula ma’I, “that praises the genitalia of the person being honored.”.  In detail.  Giving sizes and comparisons.  Forget debates:  I’d like to see today’s presidential candidates stand up to that kind of scrutiny.   In my opinion, that is the one and only instance where the phrase “man up” would be non-sexist (always assuming male candidates, which this friggin’ sexist country IS always assuming).

Cherry 4:  Our Astronauts Brought Whales to the Moon

One Unfortunate Potential Consequence of Mission Failure

Revealed in Sarah’s section on the old whaling industry in Hawaii, here’s a factoid that surprised me even more than the incest yes-yes:  Whale oil was used as an officially-sanctioned lubricant by the United States government well into the space age!  Because it remains effective at temperature extremes, sperm whale oil was used by NASA for moon landers and other remotely-operated vehicles until the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986.

Imagine:   Greenpeace stealing a shuttle and trying to ram a moon mission lander…

The Theft of Hawaii

Part of Sarah’s book tells the story of Hawaii’s theft from the Hawaiians by the U.S. government.  But rather than using Sarah’s words, a very short YouTube video does a fine job of summing up the highlights:

The Foreign Country of Hawaii–Its Strange Language, Money, and Customs

But for the ultimate word on all things Hawaiian, this video contains everything you’ve ever wanted to know:


The Wordy Shipmates, Sarah Vowell

In 1630, John Cotton, the leading mega-rock star of his time, saw off the departing Puritans headed for the Massachusetts Bay colony with a sermon based on the idea that they were God’s new chosen people. 

It was okay to move to a land that was already occupied by other people (notice that these forward-thinking folk did fully acknowledge the equal humanity of the Algonquin Indians) because:

God had said it was okay when Abraham horned in on the Philistines without paying them for their land.  The God-given excuse back then applied now:

“There is room enough.”

The colony’s official seal, brought with them from England, pictured an Indian in a loincloth holding a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other, with words saying

“Come over and help us.”

No, Seriously. I Offer My Wrists Freely. Shackle Them. It Will Help Me.

It’s from a vision of St. Paul where a Macedonian says to him “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.”  (Sarah adds some good snide commentary about how how unwanted help in the affairs of others became a U.S. speciality.)


“Come Over and Help Us Be Conquered By the U.S. Post Office”

How William Tyndale Got Double-Screwed

William Tyndale is the English Protestant who committed the crime of translating the Bible into English (in 1524, in case you’re a date freak).

Henry VIII executed him for this twelve years later, in 1536 (which was two years after Henry had broken away from the Catholic church because he wanted to f*ck Anne Bolyn so badly and get a legitimate male heir by her). 

Tyndale’s reported last words were “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!”.

Clearly, his prayer worked, because in 1538, only two years after Henry executed him, Henry commissioned the first official Bible in English, the Great Bible.   Based mostly upon–you guessed it–the executed William’s translation.

Let's At Least Give Henry's (William's) Lovely Version a Glimpse

The Puritans Believed God Purposely Created Us Un-Equal In Order That We’d Love One Another

The idea is emphasized in a famous sermon known in brief as “Christian Charity” in which John Winthrop, the colony’s first governor, says that the colony will be “as a city upon a hill”–a model for others to follow.

Many politicians have quoted this.  Winthrop was quoting it from the Bible. 

He said God’s purpose in making us unequal was: “…that every man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection.” 

Or, as Anne Bradstreet, a poet-wanna-be put it:

“As it is with countries, so it is with (people):  there was never yet any one (person) that had all excellences…God will have us beholden one to another.”

(What you’re bad at, I’m good at and can help you with, and vice-versa.)

Sarah Vowell’s comment on this:

“Because of the “city upon a hill” sound bite, “A Model of Christian Charity” is one of the formative documents outlining the idea of America.  But dig deep into its communitarian ethos and it reads more like an America that might have been, an America fervently devoted to the quaint goals of working together and getting along. 

Of course, this America does exist.  It’s called Canada.”

Why Roger Williams (Founder of Rhode Island) Doesn’t Get Enough Credit

Man, this guy was forward-thinking!  I had known he allowed freedom of religious practice in his colony.  But he didn’t even believe in ORGANIZED religion at all, and he also thought that the state should be so hands-off religion that even “the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish [Islamic] or Antichristian consciences” should be allowed.  
Back in that time in history, a man believed in tolerance toward ANTI-Christians?! 
Williams did believe that non-Christian religions SHOULD be fought against–but he thought the only weapon used should be “the sword of God’s spirit, the Word of God.”

What a cool dude.

At the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, This Goat is Free to Ruminate About The Great Unknown in Whatever Manner It Pleases

The other extremely cool thing about Roger, to this once-and-still Linguistics nerd, is that he made a dictionary of the Algonquin language that was so good, it was still able to be used in 1936–THREE HUNDRED YEARS LATER (!).

A guy made his way entirely across Canada using it, communicating successfully with various tribes who shared dialect branches.
Sarah Vowell makes fun of Roger’s bad poetry, citing as one example “righteousness” rhymed with “wilderness”. 
But Sarah may have made an errah. (Oooh, Babe… 🙂 )
Old and Middle English poem sound patterns were often based not on rhyming (“lazy” – “hazy”), but on alliteration (“lazy”-“lady”). Vowels alliterated more often than consonants, like the weak “e” in “ness”.  A matching line pair might end with “happiness” and “blessedness”.
Perhaps the average educated person in Roger’s time (1640-ish) was okay with newfangled rhyming line pairs mixed in with the older alliterating-vowel line pairs.
So there, Sarah Vowell!   And you have a funny last name!  (But I liked your book.)

Here’s one of Roger’s little poems about the Indians he met, where you can see that two lines rhyme (stranger/danger), and two lines do…something else (mat/sent):

     I have known them leave their house and mat
     To lodge a friend or stranger;
     When Jews and Christians oft have sent
     Christ Jesus to a manger.

That Sneaky-and-Sweet Governor Winthrop
The Massachusetts Bay colony expelled Roger Williams for his evil nasty nastiness regarding religion (“How DARE he be tolerant like Christ!”), which is when he moved to the Rhode Island area.
Well guess what? John Winthop, governor of the colony that kicked him out, gave him advance warning that the Massachusetts folk were coming for him. Withrop even told him where it would be safe to go!
Winthrop never dropped a hint of this treason in his own journals, but Williams revealed it in his. The two supposed enemies kept up a warm correspondence until Winthrop died.
(At which point, Winthrop would, one assumes, have learned the theological truth from the Big Horse’s mouth.)
(Or not…depending on which ruminating goat you are.)

1. Tyndale on Bible Reading

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