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Oops: 20 Life Lessons from the Fiascoes That…

Oops: 20 Life Lessons from the Fiascoes That Shaped America

by Martin J. Smith

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Situated somewhere between feature-story journalism and popular history, this book 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 getting the facts and presenting them clearly shows on every page. The case studies are models of clarity, organization, and the open acknowledgement – both in the text and in the bibliography – of sources. The ones dealing with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse and the window-shedding John Hancock Building in Boston are the best short, non-technical introductions to those subjects I’ve ever read.

The quality of the research and the writing extends to the more offbeat case studies that could, in less careful hands, have descended into smirk and snark. Many books recount how Thomas Edison staged the public electrocution of an elephant. Smith and Kiger provide the context you never knew was missing: the history of other elephant executions. Many music fans of a certain age know that, for a brief time in 1967, rising guitar god Jimi Hendrix opened for the pre-fab pop group The Monkees. Smith and Kiger tell the other 99% of the story, providing a serious and plausible answer to the inevitable question: “What were they thinking?” Marketing debacles now remembered (if at all) only as punch lines – the 1955 Dodge LaFemme, the paper dress, Smell-o-Vision – get the same full and careful treatment.

If the book has a flaw, it’s that the authors’ scrupulous research and crisp writing clash with their (or their publisher’s) determination to make the book “wacky” and light-hearted. The intentional “misprinting” of the cover image and the small, boxed inset at the end of each chapter distilling the case study into a literal “recipe” for disaster are artifacts of that determination – and they fall as flat as Richard Nixon’s 1968 attempt connect with young voters by appearing on Laugh In. If you’re interested enough in the subject matter to be reading this review, you’ll find the book fascinating. Just be aware that you’re in for a very strange read. ( )
  ABVR | Mar 20, 2013 |
Picked this one up at the library on a whim, and I'm glad I did. It was fascinating, educational, and entertaining! Some of these historical events and fads were things I knew about but many were new to me. The writing is clear and lighthearted, and there is something to learn from nearly every tale. Highly recommended! ( )
  glade1 | Aug 27, 2010 |
A great read. Informative and entertaining. Highly recommended. ( )
  m.c.wade | Feb 12, 2009 |
all over the place
  Kaethe | May 27, 2008 |
A very light, quick read about some embarassing moments in American history, grouped under general themes such as "beware solutions that create new problems" [about CFCs and leaded gasoline]; "accentuate the positive" [Thomas Edison and negative ads]; and "convenience isn't always enough" [the paper dress]. Amusing and well researched, this book's tone is perhaps a bit too irreverent to be taken entirely seriously, and it feels like a marketing ploy to get the reader to buy something off a website. Altogether, though, it's an entertaining read and a pleasant distraction. ( )
  Meggo | Aug 4, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060780843, Paperback)

Americans' failures are as spectacular as their successes: bridges that collapse; flying cars that crash; sports promotions run amok; deodorant that nearly destroyed the earth; and even failures that failed to happen!

Veteran journalists Martin J. Smith and Patrick J. Kiger select twenty miscues, goofs, complications, and failures that shaped modern America and reveal the life lessons these gaffes teach, including:

Accentuate the Positive: How Thomas Edison Invented Trash Talk Understand the Market: The 1967 Monkees–Jimi Hendrix Concert Tour Desperation Is the Cradle of Bad Ideas: Cleveland Indians' Ten-Cent Beer Night Sweat the Details: The Sixty-Story John Hancock Guillotine

Enriched by handy clip-'n'-save "Recipes for Disaster," Oops proves that when it comes to failure, truth is stranger than fiction!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:57 -0400)

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