Friday, December 31, 2010

Cash In The Attic, Oprah, Paul McCartney's girlfriend and the flu

I’ve been in bed with the flu and after three days of continuous sleeping I found myself awake, weak and needing television at 6 in the morning.  Imagine my delight to find an episode of Cash In The Attic just starting.  It was a Christmas week miracle. No, really!  Here was a show I would have gladly watched in prime time available at 6 in the a.m. when only re-runs of Full House or Family Matters were on. It’s like finding an old episode of Antiques Roadshow in the middle of the night.

The host of  C.I.T.A has those eyes that are a little too out there and a little too wide but his enthusiasm is boundless. The premise of the show is to create some needed cash for the homeowner by auctioning  their unwanted tchotchkes.  The family is always deserving:  either the father doesn’t have work  or someone’s been ill or is in Iraq.   Each participant needs a modest sum usually under $2000 to fulfill a decorating dream.  In the episode I watched the mother wants to buy a new bedroom set for her daughter.   The C.I.T.A team begins to scavenge the house room by room. They pick up items, pause, and ask the owner:  Are you sure you want to part with this? The owner, caught up in the moment, nods yes in a stupor.   This would be my dream team.  Are you kidding me?  They come to my house, take all the “stuff” and put it in their truck! What’s wrong with this picture?  NOTHING!

When the house, garage and attic are picked clean, the team estimates what the treasures will yield at the auction.  Secretly the audience (me) is rooting that the figure will grow and the deserving contestant will double or triple the money needed.

Fast forward to the auction.  The C.I.T.A. team and the contestant are in the front row cheering and crying and carrying on. Here’s how the auction went:  Four Louisa May Alcott dolls (Jo was missing) that had been bought from a neighbor for five dollars each sold for $30 each. The husband’s antique six pack metal coke holder went for $30. An old wooden tube radio went for $30. An etched coffee table top with (I think) the map of the U. S. went for $40.  An old Bausch and Lomb microscope went for over $100.  Then they sold off the girl’s old bedroom set that looked perfect - good mahogany with a bowfront dresser and fourposter bed, etc. it brought in a few hundred dollars.

The auctioned items  realized not the $1100 they needed for the new bedroom set but $1180.  I always think that Oprah is watching and will help them in a much better way. And speaking of Oprah, did you see her on the Kennedy Center Honors program? In back of the honorees were all the companions.  Yes, there was Stedman and Gayle in back of Oprah and Sir Paul’s new girlfriend in back of him. At one point while Sir Paul was mouthing the words to one of his songs as Steven Tyler sang it, the girlfriend rested her chin on Sir Paul’s shoulder.  

When Alec Baldwin was introducing Paul’s segment and began the sentence:  “Paul married. . . “ I thought he was going to say Paul married a neurotic gold digger named Heather but instead he said Paul married rock and roll to beauty.

Anyway, I’m better today. and I lost four pounds. 


Saturday, December 25, 2010

If this were the happiest day of my life what would have happened to make it so?

When I woke up this morning, I asked:  If this were the happiest day of my life what would have happened to make it so? The answer came almost immediately.

Nothing.  My life is exactly what and where it should be. Maybe yours is too.
Merry Christmas everybody!           

Sunday, December 19, 2010

CVS: entered innocent, left a pro

I entered CVS early one Tuesday to buy batteries. The circular said the CVS AA batteries were BOGO (buy one get one free). I put two in the basket.  Palmolive liquid was also BOGO. I put two in the basket.  I needed laundry detergent and scent-free All had a one dollar reward.  Bought two ALL  and put in the basket.  Put one regular Clorox in the basket.  Scott t. paper was on sale. Put package of 12 in the basket. 

I passed an innocent looking red machine that said: instant coupons.  I showed it my CVS rewards card and it spit out: $2 any detergent coupon, $2 any CVS brand item coupon, $3 any Scott item coupon.  Added to my $2 reward from my detergent, I now had $9 in cash equivalent plus two BOGO items that totaled about $4.  This is how I worked it:  I used the $3 Scott coupon to buy my “on sale” toilet paper. I used the $2.00 CVS brand coupon to buy one of my two CVS AA batteries, 2.99 (the other was free because of BOGO).  I bought one All with the $2 detergent coupon and used the All $1 reward for the Clorox.  I got back in line and bought the second All and used the $1 reward to buy one of the Palmolive liquid .99 (the second one was free because of BOGO.

This is why I’m not further along.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What People Pray For at 8 a.m. Weekdays

There is a little country church four blocks from my house and occasionally, I attend weekday mass.  Self-help books are always saying that if you practice silence, you’ll get guidance from God.  I would like a big fat message from above. “Hello, there.  I’ve been thinking about you a lot and I have some definite ideas about how you could lead the life that I had in mind when I created you."  The truth?  I don’t have a clue what I want God to say.   Church forces me to slow down and think.   The candlelight is hypnotic. I usually arrive late for mass and wearing my worst shoes because they’re near the door.  Shoes have defined my life because I’m short.  I feel invisible in church although I’ve studied every person at the daily attendance and when I look out on the men and women, tidy and intent, I feel what I can only describe as affection. There are very few people under fifty at daily mass.  Some are so old they have to hang on to the pew as they make their way down the aisle.  One of the women who works in the sacristy stopped me one morning. She kissed my cheek and said,  “I see you praying every day.”  I wonder if I’m praying or just using the church.   I always take communion even though I haven’t been to confession since high school. Perhaps the rule about mortal sin and taking communion has changed along with the Latin.  I liked the Latin. Et in terra pax hominibus, bone voluntatis.  Who wouldn’t like that?
There’s another event during weekday mass.   Between the Gospel and the Offertory people call out what they want from God and the congregation chants: Lord hear my prayer. This is a brilliant enticement on the part of the church because it gives people the idea that a miracle might happen.  It makes church going exciting.  You can just jump in with an entry. 
Most people ask, “for a special intention.”  One man asks for the same thing every day. He says, "for those traveling today, Lord hear my prayer."  Maybe he knew someone who was killed in a crash or derailment.   One woman prays for “our beloved deceased.”  Occasionally someone will mention a real name: “for my son, John, who has a birthday today.” I haven't heard anyone ask for money or fame. 
If it weren’t so crass and unreligious, I would say:  “Lord help me sell a boat load of e-books today.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I am not at home

I had to leave my house and go up island and it took me three days to force myself out of the door and on the train. I packed my bag on Friday but I left on Monday. I'm not sure if I made up being agoraphobic or whether I am really agoraphobic.  Or maybe  I made it up and it came true.  I always think the house will blow up when I'm not there because of something I failed to do.  I've only ever heard of three houses blowing up and two of them were blown up on purpose by the government. 
The train station is at the end of my block so I only cross one street to get on the train.  The modernized Long Island Railroad is a very weird customer with many levels of different sizes.  I always sit on the entry level in the nearest seat.  I realize this is for disabled people but no one ever makes me get up.  My branch of the Long Island Railroad is what I perceive purgatory will look and feel like.  It is solitary and cold.  The view out of the window is of desolate tangled flora, deserted industrial buildings or contiguous backyards with abandoned above ground pools and utility sheds.  I try to read on the train but if you don't sit up straight, you tend to slide off the seats.  I tried to read "The girl who played with fire" by the Swedish author Stieg Larsson.  This is noir, noir fiction and perfect for the train.  I've always loved Sweden because they bought foreign rights to my books and kept them in print for a long time.

The good thing about traveling on this train is that it makes you review your life.  Okay that's not the good thing.  I'm writing this blog from my destination.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony, Diesel, Kobo

 It is the Christmas season and everyone is buying presents.  One of the hottest presents for 2010 (I’ve heard) is the Kindle or a Kindle-like e-reading device. I will tell you everything I know (not even remotely comprehensive or maybe even true) about e-readers, e-reading services and e-bookstores.

When I uploaded my books on Amazon, I formatted them to be read on the Kindle, the most popular and well-known e-reader. I also uploaded all of the books on a site named Smashwords.  Smashwords not only helped me to format my books with their excellent free Guide, but they agreed to convert, distribute and manage sales of my books for other e-readers or e-bookstores. I am the bookstore owner over at Amazon but at Smashwords I only supply content.  Skipping Amazon, Smashwords distributes my books to the following:

Amazon:  Amazon’s Kindle is by far the most prevalent e-reader.  It is sold on Amazon and now (I hear) available elsewhere. It is about $139.
Barnes & Noble:  This big traditional bookstore elbowed in on Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) and created it’s own e-reader:  The Nook.  The Nook takes different formatting than the Kindle.  If I had to rank e-readers, the Nook would be Number 2.  I’ve sold four books on B&N in about eight weeks.  Since they have millions of offerings and many of them free, I consider those four book sales a miracle.  Recently B&N instituted Pubit, an entity that lets authors create and manage their own virtual bookstore just as they do on Amazon.  I haven’t done that yet.  I saw the Nook for sale at Wal-Mart.

Apple:  There is an Apple iBookstore and I’ve sold one book there but I cannot navigate the site and cannot find my books.  Steve Jobs tell me why.  Most digital books can be downloaded on the iPad, the iPhone or the Mac.  I have sold one book over at Apple.  I believe my friend Jeff bought it.

Sony: Sony has it’s own e-reader.  They simply call it a Reader Pocket Edition and they claim it is the thinnest and lightest e-Reader.  It is $179.99.  They also have a Touch Edition and a Daily Edition. (I don’t know why.) All of my books were at the Sony e-bookstore but were drastically reduced.  I’ve sold 4 books at Sony.

Diesel:  Diesel is an eBook Store based in Richmond Virginia but not really.  As they say it “only exists inside your computer.”  They also say: “you may be surprised to hear that we don’t view eBooks as our core business.  Yes, we sell them by the boatload.  That’s the product.  Our real business, however, is to provide a fun, positive, engaging customer experience." They offer an “intuitive way to break your e-Book search down.”  I don’t know what any of that means but good luck.  My sales there: 0.

Kobo:  Kobo is a global e-reading service that delivers content (books, etc.) and allows you to read it on the device of your choice be it e-reader, tablet, smartphone, computer, etc. The e-reading applications are free.  Kobo also offers the Kobo e-reader starting at $149. I looked myself up on Kobo and found my oeuvre sharp, neat and complete.  Sales? 0

In recent weeks, Borders and Google have announced e-book subsidiaries for authors and publishers.  Borders wants to charge authors to put content on their site.  No thank you.  Google, because of its astonishing reach (and it is free) is more interesting but until after the New Year, I don’t have the energy to begin uploading and creating a shop over there.  It looks as if we are going to have an explosion of e-reading.

Please do your own research because it is cold in my house and I may not be thinking clearly.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

If you want to write a historical family saga, this is how I did it.

            When I began my historical saga, Daughters, I could just as easily have been about to perform brain surgery.  That is how inexperienced I was at research, never mind integrating world events and data into a smooth flowing narrative.  My major qualification was that my paternal grandparents had grown up in a small village near Jerusalem (where my novel is set) and many relatives were still around to remember how things were done in the old days. I began with an oral history from both men and women.  If there are people who still remember their own stories or stories they heard growing up an oral history helps you get the minutiae of daily life down in an unselfconscious way.   Oral history told me the terrain of the village, when the harvests took place and how the villagers participated.  I found out the kind of food they ate, the rhythm of the seasons and the way they spent their days.  I knew details of how the average boy and girl courted and married.
            Jerusalem has always been a cosmopolitan city because of the pilgrims who flock to the Holy Places for all religions.  There are many travel books and memoirs written about it. Both Mark Twain and Agatha Christie visited Jerusalem. Two of the most helpful books were Jerusalem Walks and the diaries of the Society of Friends. Jerusalem Walks  pinpoints the street and house number of stores, banks, publications, monasteries, churches etc. When you can name a street or a specific spot, the reader feels comfortable and begins to trust the author.
            In this passage, the father in Book One inherits a plot of land and grows some vegetables that he brings on a cart to sell in Jerusalem:
By May he was able to bring his early crop to the Jaffa Gate and sell it alongside those of the other village farmers. The plaza outside Jaffa Gate was the busiest spot in all Jerusalem for here ended the well-traveled road from the ancient port city of Jaffa.  Here, diligences, carriages bringing imported necessities and luxuries, discharged their passengers and goods. Mustafa fashioned a two-tiered cart with long handles to hold his produce and he and Miriam pushed it the ten miles from Tamleh every Wednesday.  The spot they chose was at the foot of Suleiman Street in front of the French Hospital of St. Louis.
It was the thriving hub of the city.  Jaffa Road, though still unpaved, had sidewalks.  In just one small stretch, across from the Russian Compound, there was a branch of Barclay’s Bank, the Hughes Hotel, a specialty cobbler and several elegant shops and cafes.  The Greek Consulate occupied spacious offices stop one building that housed a branch of the Russian Post Office below.”
             Also invaluable were the diaries of the Society of Friends who began building schools in my fictional village in the 1850’s.  With the help of the diaries, I knew precisely what day, the British Protectorate ended and the area was left without a government because the teachers heard the armies marching out at midnight and I could say that with certainty to my readers.
            Toward the end of the First World War, when my fictional family has to leave the village to escape a famine and cholera, they walk across the Jordan to a monastery in En Salt.  I was completely comfortable describing the terrain because I had read descriptions in several memoirs.
It was so hot.  The dust on the road attacked their throats and gagged them and they stopped speaking to conserve their saliva.  Only Esa had energy and he skipped ahead sometimes running back to apprise them of some horny-headed lizard or chameleon he spotted on a rock.  Toward afternoon of the next day, after stopping to rest at dawn, they reached the great depression of the Ghor that provided a bed for the Jordan.  They passed many gorges into which the debris from the hillsides had tumbled creating a desolate wasteland.  Most frightening of all were the narrow defiles with perpendicular sheets of striated cliffs on each side allowing no place to turn should they be attacked.  Nadia crooned softly to herself and stuck her thumb in her mouth, lethargic from the heat and dehydration.  The older boys and Nadeem took turns leading the donkey.  Miriam kept her eye on Esa but her mind wandered and from time to time she became disoriented.
On first view, the Jordan appeared as a meandering ribbon of grass.  There were muleteers who warned them of the muddy bottom but when their donkey began to slip and flounder and was in danger of drowning, the men made no move to help.  Nadeem cut the animal loose from the packages and Miriam saw all of their belongings sink to the bottom.  He saved only the food and although he submerged himself several times searching for the water skin, the men called out that it was useless.  The strong current had already taken their cargo several miles.  Nadeem led the donkey back and forth with each of them atop the animal.  When they were all safely on the other side, he sat by himself, his wet clothes plastered around his thin body and wept into his hands.”
If you can use the name of the boat, the name of the street, the name of anything, it becomes  authentic and valuable.
Samir sailed from the port of Jaffa with twelve other passengers on a coal-burning cargo ship of the Khedevieh Line that was under British control.  He left on September 11, allowing himself three weeks to make the trip and arrive in time for the fall term at the London School of Economics, which had become recognized as part of London University for the BSc degree in Economics.  The ship dropped cargo at Naples and Lisbon and that was the last comfortable climate he was to know. The school was located in Aldwych just off The Strand and about a mile from Bloomsbury, the central University site.  He was assigned a cold and drafty room on Fitzroy Street but it might as well have been off the face of the earth as he knew it.”
I felt very comfortable depicting the first meeting of an arranged marriage because I had heard it straight from my aunt’s mouth.  In this scene the rebellious daughter is alone with the boy her parents have decided would be a good match.  He has just asked a fatal question.
“Why do you want to go to such a rigorous school? My sister goes to Mar Yusef.  It’s a good enough place.”
She looked at the boy as if he had spoken an obscenity.  What made him an authority on what was good enough for her?  It’s the best school in Palestine, “ she said firmly.  “The American Consul says so and the British Consul agrees.  Every visiting scholar makes it his business to stop by and lecture to us.  Anyone who graduates can pass the London University Exam or the National Matriculation Exam.  How can you ask such a question?  If you had a choice between having something that was just so-so and having the best, which would you choose?”
The boy was frowning.  He wasn’t expecting such aggression and it confused him.  She could see he was deciding whether to be aggressive in return or to be polite.  He sighed and shifted so that instead of sitting squarely on the couch, he was angled toward her.  “How do you like to pass your time?  Or perhaps you don’t have any free time in this fancy school.”  He said “fancy” in a sarcastic way so she knew his feelings were hurt.
From out of nowhere she had this sense of freedom to say anything she pleased.  It was wonderful not to care how someone reacted.  “I pass my free time playing tennis.  I’m mad for tennis.”  She was trying for an off-hand brittleness precisely because it would annoy him.
“Tennis?  Where you hit the ball back and forth?”
“Well . . . that’s not all of it.”  To explain the finer points of the game would be useless.  He would scoff.  “How do you pass your free time?”
 “I don’t have much of it,” he said proudly.  “My father and I have the franchise for the Singer machines.  Do you own a Singer?  Do you sew?”
For any major event, I always researched at least two sources, especially for the passages of Bedouin life in the desert. I had to know it well enough to put one of my characters in the thick of it for an entire chapter. One of the main characters in Book Two is sent to become “a man” in the desert.  By making Samir naive, the reader and I can ask a lot of questions:
“Why do you choose to live like this? Samir asked.  It had occurred to him that Marwan’s father was wealthier than many of the villagers, yet this life held relentless hardship.  They slept on the stony ground, chilled to the bone by night and suffocated during the day.  Water was precious and rare for these were the driest days of the year and it would be two months before the rains began to replenish the water holes.  Food was monotonous.  The frothy salty camel milk fresh from the udder was repulsive but there was nothing else and he reluctantly began to tolerate it.  The occasional meat was cooked so rare he couldn’t touch it yet the young men fought for the raw heart of any animal that was slaughtered.  They guzzled the blood believing it gave them strength and virility.  “Don’t you yearn for a different life?”
“Where else would I live?  I was born here as was my father and his father before him.”
“But it’s so difficult.  There’s a much easier way.”  As he said this, anxiety rose in him.  Would his father come back to claim him?  And when?
Marwan laughed.  “Easier for whom?  We welcome the hardships of the desert.  We love them.”
“But why?”
He answered with an innocence that made Samir ashamed for questioning.  “We love the desert life because it is ours.”
But it is not mine, thought Samir with sadness.
One early morning, after the moon had set but while it was still dark, Marwan shook him.  “We must ride into the wilderness,” he said and handed Samir a waterskin and some dried dates.  Each rode a dromedary while two riderless mares cantered at their side and held by lines to the camel girths.  A few miles out of the camp, Marwan, rifle in hand, flung himself from the camel onto the back of his mare, unslipped the line and raced off in a cloud yelling wildly.  Samir made three attempts to do the same but fell twice.  He couldn’t ride bareback and found himself gripping with his thighs for dear life.  He reached Marwan who was casually pitching stones at a pile of bleached animal bones.
“I thought you were in danger,”’ shouted Samir.
“You were supposed to ride as if danger were near,” said Marwan coolly.
“I almost broke my back.  Who ever heard of riding a blasted horse without a saddle!  And jumping on him at that!”
“It’s the way it is done.”
“It’s a good way to kill yourself.”
“It’s the way we ride for the gazu, the raid,” he said stubbornly.  “It is the way we move our camps.  It is the way we protect our grazing areas and our flocks.  In order to survive in the desert you must be ready to move swiftly from the camel to the war mare.  It is the only way to be a man.  We must try it again until it is as easy as walking.”
Samir rubbed his back.  He thought: I’m never going to be in a raid.  I’m not going to move a camp.  One day I will return to my home.  Yet Marwan was already retying his line to try again.  They worked all day on the maneuver and Samir was enticed by the spectacular look of the transfer when it was accomplished properly.  Using the left wrist to launch himself, Marwan lifted both legs up and to the right then swung gracefully between the two animals and landed squarely on the back of the mare, unhitching the line at the same instant he spurred the horse.  Then came the wild yell of freedom.  The thrill of speed atop the most splendid horses in the world, the “drinkers of the wind.”
In the end, after two years of exhausting research and re-writing, I was proud of the book that resulted.  Daughters was translated into fifteen languages and received excellent reviews.  It is available as an e-book in the Amazon Kindle Store.

Monday, December 6, 2010

sales, giveaways, guest blogging, good pitches, reviews and Uncle Charlie

Writers mostly live in their heads and like to move their lives along through magical thinking.  In the e-book world you can’t do that.  If you want sales. you have to get out there like Willie Loman in Death of Salesman and sell.  I come from a family of merchants.  My uncle and father used to own a department store, Jean Matou, La Maison de Trousseau, on the corner of Connecticut Avenue and M Street in Washington, D.C.  Bess Truman and later Jackie Kennedy shopped there.  My father once declined to take Bess Truman’s check.  His exact words after Mrs. Truman said: “But Mr. Saah, I live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” were  “I don’t care where you live, we don’t take checks.”  Uncle Charlie had to pull him aside and knock some sense into him.  Uncle Charlie used to travel to Sarasota, Florida  (the winter home of the circus) and sell trousseaus to the daughters of the Ringlings and the Norths.

Commerce is in my blood and very little gives me more pleasure than seeing that “unit sales” line flip upward after a good block of promoting.  Sales of my ebooks have improved each month since I began selling them in early September but I know sales would wither if I didn’t take advantage of every marketing opportunity.

In November, I guest blogged on three blog sites, revamped my opening pitch on four of the books, entered the Goodreads “giveaway” program, ran a small ad on the Kindleboards, posted my books on every possible thread both at Amazon and Barnes & Noble discussion forums and sent review copies to some reputable reviewers who will post reviews on Amazon. Legitimate reviews help a buyer decide if your book is worth their money.   I continue to comment on news websites.  All of it together moves the brand along and results in increased viewership for this blog.

One of my children pointed out that I am competing for sales with millions of other items. A million is a lot. If a buyer’s eye settles on one of my ebooks AND if those eyes linger there for more than a second AND if that person decides to click on the "buy" button, get the picture.

The most wonderful news of the month was not increased sales.  It was the birth of the beauty, Gwyneth Baehr, who arrived in our lives a little early but perfect in every way.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What’s new? And other chilling greetings.

             If you put in “What’s new?” in the Google search box, Google would answer:  “Did you mean how can you get me to hate you?”
            Most of us slog along every day in a comforting routine.  The minute we have children the adjective “uneventful” is often accompanied with “thank god.”  Why then, do many worship at the altar of new?  The person  who greets us with "what's new?"  is signaling that he/she does not want to contribute any calories to the encounter.  They might as well be saying: “You better have something, buddy because I got nothing and I need some entertainment.  Yes, the whole rationale with “what’s new” is a bid at being entertained.  The question immediately puts the responder on the defensive as he/she scours the memory hole to come up with something astounding that has happened in their life.  If nothing comes up, they are momentarily embarrassed to be so dull.  If you actually related something worthwhile:  “I learned to accept my alcoholic parents,“ the inquisitor would make a hasty retreat and cross you off his invite list.
            There’s a hidden codicil in the  “what’s new” contract.   The answer better not be any of the following:  I had my septic tank emptied. Somebody at work got fired.  We had a blackout yesterday.  It should be something that includes a job with gobs of money, a marriage with gobs of money or some event that promises gobs of money in the future.
            You can count on one hand the events that truly qualify for the “new” roster:  I was born. I died.  I was elected President.  Oprah chose my book for her Book Club. Brad Pitt had a flat tire outside of my house and needed my help.
            The phrase that has been invented to circumvent the embarrassing pause after the “what’s new” question is: “Same old, same old.”  Citizens, when you answer “same old,” shout it with brio and pride.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cash Cab, The Holiday, Legally Blonde and Gone With The Wind

In my new e-book venture, I’m often asked to do a profile page. One of the questions is about favorite film, tv show or book. I should put down, The Brothers Karamazov, Casablanca and Nova. I have read or seen all three.  Why then do I prostrate myself on the altar of self-destruction and put down: Legally Blonde, Cash Cab and Gone With The Wind?
Ben Bailey is the quizmaster and driver of Cash Cab.  Ben looks and dresses like your handyman.  He wears a hoodie that says New York on it.  He’s bald and has a big friendly face. Ben, unlike Wink Martindale, is a philosopher.  When the fares leave the cab, winners or losers, he’ll say something like:  There they go to drink and carouse in the caverns of Soho with their four hundred and fifty dollars.  Or he’ll say.  That was terrible.  That was the worst.   
I always wonder if the smart one who had all the answers resents splitting the money?

Legally Blonde:  I have studied screenwriting and even wrote a screenplay and Legally Blonde is one of the best constructed screenplays that I know of. (Two others are:  Driving Miss Daisy and Fatal Attraction).  The writing chugs to its destination without a false step.  It hits all of our “feel good” spots. The pacing is perfect.  One of the cable channels frequently airs this movie and if I come upon it, I watch it .
The Holiday is not my own favorite but the favorite of many executives in the film business.  Yes, you heard right. 

Gone With The Wind does not need my defense.  It is awesome. I quote Mammy whenever I can:  “It ain’t fittin’.  It just ain’t fittin’” “Miss Scarlett, you done had a baby and your waist ain’t gonna be twenty-two inches ever again.”

We won’t dwell on Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune except for two examples. 
1.The hidiosity of Alex over-pronouncing anything French.  
2. Once a contestant on Wheel had about $30,000 at stake and the puzzle showed all of Gettysburg except the G; and all of Address and the contestant said quizzically “Bettysburg Address?”  Who would want to miss that?