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Oops:20 Life Lessons From The Fiascoes That Shaped America Hardcover – Mar 2 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (March 2 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060780835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060780838
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.7 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #978,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
You'll Keep Quoting This Book April 20 2006
By Chandler Phillips - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This hilarious book is lots of fun to read and even more fun to tell people about. You'll be amazed that you haven't heard of these things before. Smith and Kiger have this way of rolling out odd little details in a dry way that really build a humorous picture without trying to be funny. My favorite story was about 10 cent beer night at the Cleveland Indians baseball game in 1974. They start by telling how Cleveland was suffering from an image problem because the river had recently caught fire and the Cleveland Mayor had ignited his hair with a blow torch at a ribbon cutting ceremony. You know the rest of the story will only get better. Buy it. Read it. Quote it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining and Informative April 1 2006
By Sreeram Ramakrishnan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In a very entertaining and informative account of what the authors considers "fiascos", the book narrates various incidents, fads, and "strategic thinking" that were...well, not so successful. A range of 'stories' from religious movements founded on interesting sex mores, y2k bug, paper fashion, battle of towers in Boston, plans for assasination of Castro, Cleveland Indians' beer promotion, and Edison killing an elephant (!) are all part of this book. Some stories are so interesting, it is a surprise that they have been obscure so far. On that front, the author scores full points. It is a little disappointing that the authors were not able to locate any interesting pictures or photos of the events narrated. Instead they focus on a very amateurish-looking "ingridient list" for each of the 'fiasco' narrated in the chapter. The book is very neatly organized - each chapter focusing on a specific event/trend. Quite humorous writing style adds to the enjoyment of the book. A good read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An Entertaining Guide to the Mistooks of Our Time May 22 2006
By diskojoe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is an entertaining and informative look of some of the major fiascoes of American popular history. I have witnessed or at least heard about the majority of the mistakes displayed here. For example, I remember seeing the John Hancock Tower partially covered in plywood on childhood trips to Boston (although the book doesn't mention this, I believe that the surviving panes of glass went to Building #19, a locally famous salvage/overstock store here in the Boston area, for sale for the uses described by the authors). The authors do a good job in filling out the facts behind the fiascoes (I didn't realize that I wasn't the only one who couldn't stand Clippy). As a previous reviewer stated, the one problem that I did have with the book is a lack of a photo section, as items such as paper dresses, the Dodge LaFemme, the rockin' Tacoma Narrows Bridge & Flying Cars need to be seen. I also didn't care too much for the "receipe" section that ended each chapter. Despite this, I do recommend this book to be added to your own Dynamic File of Trivia.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating, but Strange March 19 2013
By A. Bowdoin Van Riper - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a very strange book.

Situated somewhere between feature-story journalism and popular history, it provides exactly what its subtitle promises: Twenty case studies of things - career moves, inventions, marketing strategies - that seemed like good ideas in theory, but went horribly wrong in practice. The authors are journalists, and their dedication to the journalist's fundamental craft of getting the facts and presenting them clearly shows on every page. Each of the twenty short chapters is comprehensive, detailed, and well-sourced without ever feeling dry or dull, and each of them opens with a useful 2-3 paragraph overview of the idea, why it seemed promising, and how it went wrong. Taken individually, the chapters are superb. Those on the chemist who gave the world both leaded gasoline and CFCs, on the kudzu that blankets the American South, on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse, and on the window-shedding John Hancock Building in Boston are the best introductions to those subjects I've ever read.

The quality of the research and the writing extends even to the more offbeat case studies - ones that, in less-careful hands, would have descended into smirk and snark. Smith and Kiger write about the offbeat sexual practices of the utopian, nineteenth-century Oneida Community without leering, and trace the spectacular flameout of world heavyweight boxing champion Leon Spinks' career without sneering. Many books on the history of technology and "weird history" recount the story of Thomas Edison staging the public electrocution of an elephant; Smith and Kiger provide the context you never knew was missing by recounting the history of other elephant executions. Many music fans of a certain age know that, for a brief time in the late 1960s, rising guitar god Jimi Hendrix opened for the pre-fab pop group The Monkees . . . but that's all they know about it. Smith and Kiger tell the other 99% of the story, asking (and providing a serious and plausible answer to) every music fan's first question: "What were they thinking?" Astoundingly, it actually does make sense in context.

The book's blend of topics - the grotesque (elephant electrocution), the farcical (the Hendrix-Monkees double bill), the tragic (Leon Spinks' self-destructiveness), and the deadly serious (the John Hancock Building) - lies at the heart of its strangeness. The authorial "voice" is consistent throughout, but the content swerves all over the map. The rise and fall of the Xtreme Football League shares space with the partial destruction of the Earth's ozone layer by CFCs, and the ecological catastrophe of kudzu with the paper dress. The strangeness is intensified by Smith and Kiger's definition of "fiasco," which encompasses everything from the impractical (flying cars) and the faddish (leisure suits) to the lethally dangerous (the Tacoma Narrows Bridge). The fact that each chapter ends with a small, boxed inset distilling each case study into a literal "recipe" for disaster brings it to a peak.

If you're interested enough in the subject matter to be reading this review, you'll almost certainly find the book interesting. Just be aware that you're in for a very strange read.