The Hawaiian Islands and Ukuleles

History of the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii is actually the exposed peaks of a huge undersea mountain range known as the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, formed by volcanic activity over a hotspot in the Earth's mantle. The Hawaiian Islands are located almost midway between Japan and the continental United States. Named the Sandwich Islands by Captain Cook, the first white man to visit the islands, arriving at Kealakekua Bay on January 17, 1779, the Hawaiian Islands are named for the largest island, the Big Island of Hawaii. The other islands are Kauai, Maui, Oahu, location of the state capitol of Honolulu, and the ever-popular Waikiki district), Molokai, and Lanai.

The historical record of the Hawaiian Islands is largely unwritten and there are competing theories about how the islands were settled. One theory holds that the islands were originally settled by the Menehune, a race of tiny people from the Marquesas Islands, somewhere between 300-400 C.E., and were invaded by Tahitians around 1300 C.E. who subdued them. The earliest settlements were definitely by Polynesians who traveled thousands of miles across the Pacific in canoes, bearing taro, breadfruit and pigs. Each island had its own chief (ali'i) and there was continuous warfare until Kamehameha I, in the early 1800s, with force and foreign weaponry united the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. The Kamehameha dynasty came to an end in 1872 with the death of Kamehameha V.

American commercial interests led to increasingly close ties with the United States, until an 1874 treaty between the United States and Hawaii gave the U.S. exclusive trading rights with Hawaii.

In 1898, the United States president William McKinley signed the Newlands Resolution which formalized the annexation of Hawaii by the United States.

In 1896, William McKinley succeeded Cleveland as president, and in 1898 the Hawaiian Islands were annexed. On February 22, 1900, Hawaii officially became Hawaii Territory, a United States territory.

Hawaii became the 50th state of the Union on August 21, 1959.

The Ukulele

The ukulele (Hawaiian for "jumping flea") is the Hawaiian version of the cavaquinho, a small guitar-like instrument brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants.

Hawaii and Ukulele references in Vineland

the dress, Day Glo orange, near ultraviolet purple, some acid green, and a little magenta in a retro Hawaiian parrots and hula girls print

At the time he was working a Hawaiian cruise gig for Kahuna Airlines, a non-sked flying out of LAX's East Imperial Terminal, a gig he'd stumbled into in the turbulent last days of his marriage, out on one more desperate attempt, transpacific this time, to save the relationship, as he saw it, or, as she saw it, once again come messing with her privacy, red-eyeing in to Honolulu on a charter flight in an airplane of uncertain make [...]

"Hawaii is where men from California bring their broken hearts, seeking exotic forms of self-injury not so readily available on the mainland. Some specialize in active volcanoes, others in cliff diving, many go for the classier swimming-out-to-sea option.

Zoyd got up, put a white suit he'd borrowed from Scott Oof on over his Hawaiian shirt

Each 747 in the Kahuna Airlines fleet had been gutted and refitted as a huge Hawaiian restaurant and bar, full of hanging island vegetation, nightclub chairs and tables instead of airplane seats, even a miniature waterfall. In-flight movies included Hawaii (1966), The Hawaiians (1970), and Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961), among others. Zoyd was presented with a thick tattered fake book full of Hawaiian tunes, and on the lounge synthesizer, a Japanese make he'd heard of but never played, he found a ukulele option that would provide up to three orchestral sections of eight ukes each. It would take several flights across the Pacific Ocean and back before Zoyd felt easy with this by no means user-friendly instrument. The critter liked to drift off pitch on him, or worse, into that shrillness that sours the stomach, curtails seduction, poi- sons the careful ambience. Nothing he could find in the dash-one under the seat ever corrected what he more and more took to be conscious decisions by the machine.

In the plane, passengers milled among the resined hatch-cover tables, the plastic tikis and shrubbery, clutching their oversize paper-parasoled drinks, Zoyd attempting to keep up a medley of peppy tunes.

He saw somebody in a blond hippie haircut, floral bell-bottoms, and tropical shirt, with a dozen or so plastic leis piled up around his face and shoulders, plus some pitch-black goggle-style shades and a straw hat, holding a banjo-ukulele of between-the-wars vintage.

"Man's after you, eh," smoothly, finding a lead sheet with, inevitably, uke diagrams on it. "How about this?"

"Uh-huh!" the strange ukulelist replied. "But it'd-be easier--in the key of G!" Ukulele talk, all right, the new sideman proceeding to turn in a respectable rhythm job on the old Hawaiian favorite "Wacky Coconuts,"

He played a few bars on the uke.

a thin piping tune in three-part harmony, all sixteen bars of the theme from "Hawaii Five-0" [...] She shut off the music right after the part that goes,

Down in the streets of Honolu-lu,
Just bookin' folks and bein' patched through, what a
Lu-wow!. .. Hawa-
Ii Five-Oh!

Workin' at the Daily Planet was the Man o' Steel's Hawaiian vacation

Next day, feeling mysteriously better, he was back on the case, visiting widely separated Bay Area pharmacies with forged prescriptions for speed, purchasing a ukulele and the liver-and-blue suit he was wearing when Prairie met him [...]

Takeshi reached into his bag to produce only the ukulele, gals, no problem, and strum a four-bar intro before singing, as certification he was harmless, JUST LIKE A WILLIAM POWELL

Hub with a uke from Hawaii singing "Down Among the Sheltering Palms"

Hawaiian References in other Thomas Pynchon Novels

References to the Hawaiian Islands and culture are explored in Gravity's Rainbow and Against the Day. There is also more info at

Vacationing in Hawaii

Hawaii is an ideal vacation spot. You can usually find great vacation rentals in Oahu as well as stunning oceanfront and beachfront rentals in Maui any time of year. Vacations in Kauai, as well as Molokai and Lanai are the perfect antidote to the hectic American lifestyle, and beachfront vacation rentals on the Big Island of Hawaii are almost always available.

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