Kurtbg's Reviews > The Island of the Colorblind and Cycad Island

The Island of the Colorblind and Cycad Island by Oliver Sacks
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's review
Aug 22, 2010

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bookshelves: science, fiction-non
Read in August, 2010

Drawn by an interest in studying the lives of people with complete color blindness and a love for cycads (flora dating back to "prehistoric times), Oliver Sacks recounts his visit to the islands of Micronesia.

Sacks delvers into how people with color (or for him being british, colour) blindness live. Full cases of color blindness (achromatopsia) are hard to come by, yet in some micronesian islands there are large percentages of full cases. He also recounts a mysterious illness on the islands that only
affects people who were born or visited there in the 40's. People born there after 52 did not come down with either of the two various forms it takes (neurdegenerative akin to parkinsonia).

His asides on the cycads are interesting. Some have countless ways of
propagating in very ingenious ways.

Another interesting side is the love of SPAM, which was introduced in the 40's. Grocery stores have (had?) aisles of it. In a mainly seafood and vegetarian society it seemed odd to have this fixation on such a meat by-product. His one observation was that in borneo SPAM was to be seen as the closest meat product with a taste and texture to long pig, or human flesh. Pig being the second runner up. The strange note was that Micronesia doesn't have a history of cannibalism. So, eat up you SPAM lovers!

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