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That sounds promising but...

Posted by Bob on March 18, 2002

In Reply to: That sounds promising but... posted by Word Camel on March 16, 2002

: : : : : : : TIPPING POINT -- ".major changes in our society so often happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Ideas, behavior, messages, and products, he (Malcolm Gladwell) argues, often spread like outbreaks of infectious disease. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a few fare-beaters and graffiti artists fuel a subway crime wave, or a satisfied customer fill the empty tables of a new restaurant. These are social epidemics, and the moment when they take off, when they reach their critical mass, is the Tipping Point." Summary from the dustjacket of "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference" by Malcolm Gladwell, Little, Brown and Co., Boston, 2000.

: : : : : : The tipping point of a cow is her back haunch.

: : : : : I've heard that cow-tipping is a "sport." But it isn't one that I ever tried.

: : : :
: : : : More sport than "a sport" - usually for the inebriated. I have not done this myself, though I have seen it done. Apparently it helps if the cow is asleep.

: : : The tipping point is a central concept in a wonderful book, "Bellwether," by Connie Willis.

: : For those who want more detail, I'll add that "Bellwether" is a comic novel in the fantasy genre, involving a bewildered sociologist, a weirdly bureaucratic research organization, and a small flock of sheep. With a formula like that, you can't go wrong.

: surely we *can't* be talking about fantasy? It sounds like gritty realism to me!

"Tipping" and "tipping point" have a (lamentable) history in the U.S. In the '50s and beyond, neighborhoods which were all caucasian, in cities like Chicago and Detroit, would have one family of color move in. Generally, no problem ... but unscrupulous real estate agents would work hard to "steer" another black family into the neighborhood, and then another.... until the neighborhood reached the tipping point, and whites would panic, put their houses up for sale up and down the street, and the real estate agents would have dozens of new customers, feverishly willing to sell. Whole areas of cites went from all-white to all- (or almost-all) black in a pattern of "white flight" that can still be seen in ethnic maps today.