Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

The Revolution Stops Here

Posted: January 3, 2013 in Current Affairs

What’s left for the digital revolution to conquer now that it can reach beyond the grave?  MyOwnEulogy.com has announced a service that takes the work out of remembering someone by foisting the work back on the individual.  Think of it as an opportunity to write your autobiography complete with music and video “depending on the creativity of the author” as the press release says.

For only $19.99 per year what could go wrong?

Let me enumerate just a few ideas I have.

For those of us not blessed with the verbosity of a Churchill (or even his grammar and punctuation) dealing with the challenge of the blank screen might be just a tad much especially when contemplating with the long good night.

The PR makes the point, quite rightly, that loved ones should not be faced with the task of creating a eulogy in the middle of grieving and all would be better if somehow magically the task could be done already at the time of the funeral.  So, it really doesn’t solve the problem, it merely transfers it to another person, place and time.  I suggest this may be an opening for freelancers but not autobiographers.

Truth be told, most people are no good at narrative or editing — even of their own life stories — and I can see this new service accumulating piles of electronic files, scraps and pieces of a story left for others to knit together.  But also, what is the value add of a service like this?  Don’t we already have access to all of the capabilities needed to create a personalized eulogy?  Aren’t they already available more or less free?

I was hacked

Posted: November 18, 2012 in Current Affairs

I apologize to all my friends and readers who lived through the spamming that resulted from by Facebook account being hacked.  I am hopeful that the problem is now resolved but keep those emails coming if you are getting anything stranger than normal from me.


Nope, out of respect for everyone, I am not going to say anything about how happy or sad I am today about the election results.  Not gonna go there, wouldn’t be prudent…  To everyone, worn ragged by the saturation bombing, I come in peace to talk about profits and what the business community can take away from this national lab experiment.

It wasn’t an experiment?  Well, maybe not in the classic sense of test tubes and Bunsen burners, perhaps, but it was certainly a natural experiment.  It was akin to watching the lives of twins unfolding if they were separated at birth or if one had a disease and the other didn’t.  There’s a lot to tease out of this.

Consider the impact of money and the approach to voter outreach, a.k.a. marketing.  According to today’s New York Times, this presidential election cost in the neighborhood of $6 billion, much of it spent on radio and TV advertising and a lot of it spent by third parties.  But much of the funding raised and much of the communication happened away from traditional broadcast media and came through the combined use of social media, analytics and mobile devices.

Again and again in the coverage of the returns, analysts referred to micro targeting and social media and it was some of the social data that enabled the polling outfits to so precisely measure and predict the outcomes.  This data also lifted fund raising from the grass roots and gave field workers the ability to get out the vote even to the point of providing precinct maps with walking directions.

So what do we take from all of this?  Well, one of the messages I take, and it is not the only one to be had, is this is what’s possible with modern social and mobile technologies that were pioneered in the front office.  It highlights the importance of big data collection and the relevance of modern analytics too.

All parties raised a lot of money to run ads but some of the most effective work was done when the sound was on mute and people could no longer bear to hear another ad, pro or con.  The data collection and analysis enabled the micro targeting that gave the political practitioners the raw materials to customize messages for particular voters, to deliver those messages and to be sure they were seen and therein is the key finding for all of business.

The unmistakable take away for me is that when the marketing budget really is constricted and expensive broadcast approaches become ineffective, the winning approach is through social, mobile and analytics.  And if it can work in this national experiment it will definitely work in business and we are already seeing it.

The six billion dollars the parties spent on this election may turn out to be a high water mark.  Future generations of voters and politicians may look back on recent elections in wonder saying things like, “Remember when we had to…”  It will be just like today saying remember when you had to print a letter and put a stamp on it?  This is a good thing.


So hurricane Sandy was a wakeup call for many people and their attitudes toward global warming.  But I have been trying to make the point for many years that global warming or climate change or whatever euphemism you decide on, is really just one side of the coin.  The other side is the availability of fossil fuels to begin with.

In simple terms, the earth is a finite hunk of water, rock and living matter and the term finite is well chosen.  Resources like fossil fuels maybe quite large but they are not infinite and that has to mean that at some point the resource can be depleted.  Peak oil is all about depletion.  It’s the point beyond which production will not increase and all that is left is limited supply and increasing demand.  When that happens prices rise.

Now, you might say that we aren’t there yet and that there is plenty more oil to be found under the oceans.  To that I say, great!  The cost of drilling a well in the Gulf of Mexico is about $100 million.  Even if there’s no oil in the hole you drill, you still pay to play.  Someone has to pay for that dry hole at the bottom of the ocean and that’s the consumer in the form of higher pump prices.  So peak oil or sub-ocean oil, it amounts to the same thing — higher prices.  And of course nothing changes regarding pollution — the stuff you find in unconventional places still pollutes and causes global warming.

Now let’s add a third component.  The chart supplied here shows that a whopping 94% of the world’s oil is owned and controlled by national oil companies (NOCs).  NOCs like NIDC in Iran play by a different set of rules.  Some NOCs are not about profits and would prefer to keep their oil for domestic consumption.  They don’t care much about the world market or the oil companies and by controlling their output they can control their prices and profits.

So a lot of data is coming together that says oil prices aren’t coming down and a prudent strategy for controlling our destiny and trying to save the planet for our kids is to find another way to propel our cars.  It’s not easy but it’s not impossible either.  We need to quit blowing off the need for change because it’s not convenient or too hard to contemplate.

I believe there’s a lot we can do to avoid travel and carbon use in business and I saw some great examples last week at Microsoft with applications embedded with Skype.  Imagine Skyping from your CRM system to a customer rather than getting in a car.  That wouldn’t radically change your life but it might do much good for other reasons.


Well, the good news, as I survey the neighborhood on the day after is that we survived.  Boston had its moments with more than a quarter million homes without power, but it is nothing compared to the reality of New York City and environs.  We were relatively lucky on this one.

As I write this I am surveying articles about flooding in lower Manhattan and a curious story in the Wall Street Journal has me thinking.  The NYSE was closed yesterday for the storm and today it will be closed again according to the story but curiously, the exchange is denying there has been any damage to the trading floor as in,

We stress that, as of now, there has been no damage to the NYSE Euronext NYC headquarters that would impair trading floor operations,” exchange officials said in a notice to traders.

Perhaps the data centers where all the clearing goes on were not as fortunate? The article goes on to discuss contingency plans.  Whatever.

Maybe the exchange has done a bang-up job of contingency planning for just such an event or maybe it was looking forward to the complete melting of the ice caps.  Whatever happened, and for whatever reason, the exchange is not operating today.  Hurricane Sandy has provided a vivid demonstration to many powerful interests of the greater power of nature and it has reminded us that no one is immune to nature’s fury.

All this comes at a time when Americans are believing more in the assertion of global warming by scientists.  A new report published in October by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication had the following findings, published in the LA Times,

– Those who believe global warming is happening are more certain than those who do not. Over half of Americans who believe global warming is happening (57%) say they are “very” (30%) or “extremely sure” (27%).

– For the first time since 2008, more than half of Americans (54%) believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities. The proportion of Americans who say it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment has declined to 30%.

– A growing number of Americans believe global warming is already harming people both at home and abroad. Four in 10 say people around the world are being harmed right now by climate change, while 36% say global warming is currently harming people in the United States.

Interestingly, the 57% who said they believed in global warming is a rebound number.  It was as high as 71% in 2008 just before the financial meltdown.

If there is a silver lining to any of this, and you might need to have a pretty tough exterior to say or believe this, it might be a changed attitude in the ranks of the Masters of the Universe especially the climate change deniers who would have much to say about taking effective action because it costs money.

There are two ways to take such effective action.  One is to build a dyke around your property and insulate yourself from the worst effects of another once in a century storm.  The other is to take systemic action to cure or at least mitigate the worst effects of climate change for the planet.

Now that Wall Street is closed for another day, just as a precaution you see, perhaps powerful people will take a moment to reflect on their positions.


This week Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite, a.k.a. Larry’s other company, took over the Marc Benioff chair as guest antagonist but given the relationship between the companies the vibe was more sedate.  For instance, no one went to the talk at the Lam Theater in Yerba Buena Gardens wondering if Nelson would be controversial or if he would utter the words, “We come in peace,” as Benioff once had.  That much was a given.

Nonetheless, Nelson served roughly the same purpose as Benioff; he was the emissary from the cloud.  He functioned as a third party thought leader pointing off in a future direction that Oracle itself could not for various reasons.  Nelson’s direction and his talk cemented one of the key elements of cloud computing for large enterprises contemplating — what to do about the growth of increasingly expensive and hard to maintain ERP systems.  In an era where data and decision-making are continuously being pushed down the chain of command conventional on premise ERP has a flexibility problem and that was the subject of Nelson’s talk.

For at least the last year various vendors have been talking about their two tier strategies in which they provide a second layer of ERP support or they cooperate with other vendors to do so.  Nelson used his time to describe the advantages of using a product like NetSuite in a variety of ways that demanded a second tier of ERP.

For instance, a large multi-national company might use a second tier of ERP systems to capture local or regional data, convert currencies and adhere to local regulations before rolling the results up to corporate in a more tidy bundle.  The two tiers could in practice be all NetSuite but Nelson’s point was to also support heterogeneous environments in which Oracle or SAP might be the corporate standard.

Finally, an question that is on lots of minds during a merger, acquisition or sale of a division is what to do about the financials.  I have to confess that this is not top of mind for me but I can understand how it can be for the principals.  Nelson’s point is that his product, by virtue of its cloud residency, can spin up a company very quickly and enable the separation or merger as the case may be.

The two tier strategy is a happening thing and I expect that we will hear more about it over time and not just from ERP vendors.  Much the same argument could be made for front office conversions.  As multiple conventional CRM systems begin to age out we might see SaaS CRM vendors trying to ease the transition for their own products.

Finally, two tier provides other benefits to companies such as limiting the growth of conventional ERP and initiating a transition that will move some to the cloud eventually and away from big ERP systems.  That’s what Oracle can’t say on its own because as much as it would like to surround SAP systems with NetSuite and eventually convert them, it would not like to see the same thing happen with, say, Microsoft ERP surrounding and ultimately ejecting Oracle from an account.  NetSuite has an inside track right now because it runs a complete Oracle stack which will make conversion easier while keeping it all in the family.

Zach Nelson’s talk was a success.  He presented an appealing vision of ERP in the cloud and for that I think it’s a lock that he’ll be invited back.


This story in yesterday’s WSJ says a couple of things that are net positive for many of us.  Marketo’s CEO, Phil Fernandez, is the poster child for emerging companies that focus on B2B and are non-social.  Both are important because they show that 1) the economy is coming back and showing enough signs of life that the market for business software and venture investing are both resurgent and 2) the world might travel in a social orbit but social isn’t the answer to every business need.  In fact the article makes some stark contrasts between once high flying social vendors and emerging and somewhat boring business software vendors.  Like Aesop’s Fable, the slow and boring business tortoise may be overtaking the sleek and fast but now erratic social hare.  At least in the financial markets, which come to think of it are not really reality; they’re more of an alternate universe.


Oh bother.  They’re at it again.  I’m on the long flight from Boston to Dreamforce in San Francisco and I have a lot of time to think.  First stop is the Zuora user group meeting “Subscribed” happening at the Ritz Carlton.  It’s Zuora’s second bash like this and it’s nice to see them doing well with a great idea like subscription billing.

I am on a Virgin flight, which is my choice for these long hauls.  The plane is full of Dreamforce attendees and the excitement is palpable.

It’s nice to have the option of WiFi and power for my computer so that I can work.  Signing onto the go-go inflight wireless service is always something of a Gumpian box of chocolates, you never know what THEY’RE going to get and today is no exception.

Back in July I wrote a post on a similar Virgin flight titled, “Like a Virgin” that delved into the murky world of product pricing and it looks like this might become a thing for me because I am doing my own little inflation study on the price of WiFi.  If you need to catch up on my musings, you can click the link but a synopsis of my study from the original post is here:

Thanks to go-go’s record keeping, I am able to access my account history.  It seems in 2010, the first time I bought the service, I paid $12.95.  The cost actually went down for several flights after that either because they were running a special to get people hooked or, and this is a dim memory, someone was giving free or discounted service to all passengers during the holidays.

At any rate, my point is that the price of WiFi has gone up dramatically over less than two years.  Today I paid $17.95 for the same service I once paid $9.95 for.  Off the base of $9.95 we’re looking at an 80% increase and divided over two years that produces a 40% inflation rate.  Yikes!  Looks like the increasing cost of Internet is tracking the plane’s altitude.

Ok, so back to today.  Want to guess what WiFi costs today?  Today I plunked down $34.95 for a month because I am going to do this a lot this month, but a single day has a cost of $24.95 and a single day is the benchmark.  Going from $17.95 to $24.95 is a rise of a bit more than 33%.  Presumably they were making money at $17.95 and now that the equipment is fully amortized the additional fee is pure profit.

I know, the fee indirectly includes the free electricity for my computer but I prefer to think of it as something they throw in for the cost of a ticket since I could use the plug for anything else like charging my phone.  But if I am charging a phone and not using WiFi then am I technically freeloading on the WiFi users?  It gets complicated.

At any rate I think I’d have to go back to 2010 when I started using WiFi on these flights.  If you go back to the July post you see that I started paying $12.95 then it went to $9.95 before beginning its inexorable climb.  So take your pick.  I have to keep my socks on here so my math might be off but it looks like at least an inflation rate of 100% over two years.  But more interestingly, I know I am not paying double the cost of a ticket that I did in 2010 even though jet fuel is up considerably in that time.  Again some quick math with shoes on.  The cost of WiFi is now roughly equal to 3.8% of the ticket, not bad at all or about six gallons of jet fuel.

Ok, but like an economist I know there is more than one way to calculate this inflation rate.  Consider this: The cost of WiFi is so high now that they’ve come up with a new entry point, a ten dollar cost for one hour of service.  So that’s ten bucks an hour but when this started in 2010 it was ten dollars for the whole six hour flight or about $1.50 per hour.  If you use 12.95 as the basis then the cost per hour is more but no matter, this is back of the envelope stuff.  But the change suggests an inflation rate of 600%.  Six hundred percent!  Oops!  I really meant 300% per year over two years.  Feel better?  I do.

Well enough of this I am signing off from somewhere over Wisconsin traveling at 422 mph at an altitude of 36,199 feet.  It’s -73 degrees outside and $24.95 inside.

Sage Hits a Milestone

Posted: September 5, 2012 in CRM, Current Affairs
Tags: , ,

Today Sage North America announced the 25th anniversary edition of ACT!, the contact management software.

What were you doing for a living 25 years ago?  That would be 1987 and I can remember vividly.  I was selling software for a company whose offerings ran on DEC VAX and PDP-11 mini-computers.  We had a fax machine, VT-100 terminals on everyone’s desks and we were thinking about getting a phone system.  Remember those pink message slips?

The VAX was the primary development machine and it hosted all the people in the company for things like word processing and spreadsheets.  My company had been founded by a smart programmer which meant the VAX was his and we just lived on it.  Whenever he wanted to compile a program the lights dimmed, screens froze and we went out for coffee.

I saw an ad for ACT! in an in-flight magazine next to some ads for steaks flash frozen in the mid-west and rushed to your door.  As a sales guy, the load of paper on my desk and in my briefcase was killing me.  I’d experimented with keeping data in a spreadsheet but it seemed like more work than it was worth. I’d also recently taken a relational data base course and dreamed of a simple database that could track my contacts and remind me when to call them again.  I’d gotten far enough to convince my SE to write something like it.  I almost got fired for using precious resources in such a profligate way too.  Good thing I was crushing my numbers at the time.

Ah, the good old days.  I looked at the ad with longing but knew that our CEO would never let a PC into the building and ACT! ran on DOS so all I could do was look and wonder when I’d be able to get my hands on it.

Twenty-five years is a very long time in this industry and it is a testament to ACT! and Sage and Pat Sullivan who invented it that ACT! remains relevant.  Sullivan got it mostly right when he built the first version and Sage continues to keep it relevant for a large and loyal customer base that needs just what ACT! delivers.  Congratulations to Sage.


Every now and then I write something completely off base from my standard fare about software, technology and business.  This is one of those times, the following post has absolutely nothing to do with CRM so you don’t need to read it if that’s what you’re here for.  This is simply about some cultural observations that I wanted to write down.  Some times you just need to scratch an itch.

As a casual viewer of cable television over the summer I’ve noticed some similarities and wonder what they mean.  Summer Olympics changed my viewing habits, which I suppose is the reason networks bid so much for the right to carry them.  Upend the established viewing pattern and you can find you’ve changed your place in the pecking order.  Chants of “USA, USA” turn to “We’re number 1!” in viewership if you are lucky.

In my case this worked rather well but the losers were all the established broadcast networks, including NBC, which spent a small fortune on broadcasting the Olympics, and the big winners are shows on cable with smaller followings.  I found the new shows more to my liking and more important, it was possible to watch a whole season of reruns in a few nights and move on to yet another good new cable show.

The shows I’ve glommed onto are Californication, Boss and The Newsroom.  Say what you want about my taste and my politics, I don’t care.  This piece is actually trying to be the kind of literally analysis I vaguely recall from college.

To me, all three shows use as their basic theme the Faust legend.  That’s the old story about a man making a deal with the devil; usually but not always, the story involves a smart person auctioning off his soul for all eternity for a few years of earthly bliss.  In the story the devil has the power to grant temporary riches, strength, beauty and intelligence and the recipient accepts the offer and promptly goes on one heck of a bender for, let’s say, twenty years.

Admittedly, that sounds like a bad deal these days with little discussion of options, renewals, and syndication or out clauses.  But that’s the charm of the premise and the three shows examine, in one way or another, how the protagonist deals with an increasingly bad deal.  To make it interesting, each show in its own way concentrates on the main character’s efforts to either deal with a bad hand (the twenty years is almost up) or simply slog through what passes for happiness.

The latter is a fair summary of Californication.  In this show, which has five seasons under its belt, the protagonist, Hank Moody played by David Duchovny, is a former east coast college professor of literature who’s written a couple of novels.  Moody relocated to California about many seasons ago to accept Big Money for screen writing gigs and to pursue his interests in Porsches, brown liquor and easy women in any combination you, or the writers, care to imagine.

Although he’s been at it for years, Moody still cruises through southern California with a mix of incredulity and aplomb, which is not to say comfort.  He’s out of his element and can still be surprised by what he sees but he fakes it admirably, there are many times when he’s a pilgrim making little progress.  This is especially true when dealing with his ex-wife and college age daughter, girl friends who want to get serious, or, heck, any female love interest.

Moody’s deal seems to be that he can enjoy any wonderful thing he wants but he can’t truly have it; he can sample but not possess.  So he visits the Ex- but doesn’t get any, drives his agent’s Porsche, has forbidden sex with a gangster’s girl, and generally tempts fate.  He even landed in prison at one point.  Not to worry though, his contracts seem to renew regularly and he is never in real mortal danger.  Perhaps we need to wait a few more seasons.  Moody is still playing out the deal he made with impunity.

Then there’s Boss, Kelsey Grammer’s very good if slightly unbelievable production based on “what it must be like” to be the mayor of a mythical Chicago.  As political shows go, this is not The West Wing.  It’s all about angles and calculation and nary a word about the better angels of our nature.  It is the first show I am aware of that makes a main character Democratic politician into a bad guy.  I have always wondered if this show was financed by someone like the Koch brothers — Look that’s the real Chicago!  Sure, Obama has a U.S. birth certificate, but look at his political roots!  (I know what you might be thinking, but if you don’t like this one, write your own.  This is mine.)

More accurately, Grammer’s mayor, Tom Kane, is a kind of anti-hero.  Kane is in the early stages of the devil’s reclamation of his soul.  After one full season we know that he has an incurable degenerative brain disorder and it almost seems like he is, at times at least, trying to make a few things right before the long good night.  Breaking good?  That’s not allowed.  He’s been mayor for about twenty years and he’s driven forward by his wife who is the daughter of a former mayor of similar long standing and curiously, similar dementia.  The daughter/wife seems to be the one with steel in her spine Grammer just plays the role at city hall.  She is the guardian assigned to keep tabs on the devil’s investment.

Boss is well acted and well written if it is a tad unbelievable in the gangland depictions of some activities in Chicagoland and the gratuitous sex which is designed to simultaneously depict the sterility and animal passions of this political world.  Boss is a classic examination of the idea that the ends justify the means.

Finally, just arrived this summer, is The Newsroom, a show about the news department at the number two rated cable news channel.  One of the many great things about this show is its creator and primary writer, Aaron Sorkin, who has The West Wing, Sports Night and The Social Network on his resume, and that’s just for starters.  The show is great fun to watch because it is cut like a good movie with long flashbacks and other techniques designed to make you think.  It is also written over the real news from about a year ago.  Nothing fictional about the script’s fiction except how these characters handle the moment (with some help from Sorkin’s hindsight).

If Kane shows a Democrat as a bad guy, The Newsroom takes equal liberty to portray the show’s anchorman, Will McAvoy played by Jeff Daniels, as a Republican and something of a real intellectual.  McAvoy’s positions sound so progressive and so reasonable that Sorkin feels obligated to remind us from time to time that this is a Republican because we certainly don’t get it from the script which is focused on extremists.  Is this what it used to be like?  Can we have it back?  Not so fast.

Deeper examination shows a journalist who is totally and finally fed up with the mess the political discourse has made of his beloved news.  He’s a burned out ghost walking through the halls of his former life and part of the show’s recurring plot is an attempt to get him back.  This is made clear in the opening credits as images of Chet Huntley, Walter Cronkite and Saint Edward R. Murrow parade through along with an animation of Sputnik.

Those must have been the good old days of high minded broadcast journalism unfettered by analysts and ratings.  Sorkin makes sure to also point out that the news back then was, in Stephen Colbert’s phrase, “newsier” and less polluted by self-promoters and flat earth theories.  But isn’t that what nostalgia is all about?

In some ways, The Newsroom is the biggest homage to the Faust legend because it shows the viewer that you are part of this too, this mess is yours and that’s the point, I think, of all these shows.  If the society we live in smells like a dead fish it is our dead fish collectively.  But Sorkin is too good a writer to let you know that he knows you know so the plot is much less obvious than Californication.  Heck with a title like that can anything be subtle in that show?

So Will McAvoy has done multiple deals with the devil.  The show opened with him a bit burned out from trading his Serious Journalist Cred for ratings — say it ain’t so!  The opening makes a believable connection between the way we are and the way we as consumers of the news have let journalism slide.  The series is set around the very American premise that you can get your virginity back if you do an about face on all that is here and head west.  In this case to go west is to say, screw the ratings, LET’S DO THE NEWS!

It hasn’t been that simple since they closed the frontier in 1890, alas.  The one percent still want to eat, after all.  Jane Fonda as the executive-owner of the network who wants to pander to the Tea Party admirably holds down that end.  I wonder where she got her inspiration for the role?

Networks like ratings which makes it hard to explain why the network hired Mackenzie McHale, played by Emily Mortimer, to produce the news.  She supplies part of the cocoon around McAvoy so that he can do his stuff even though she once broke his heart.  For this indiscretion, Mortimer’s McHale is serving time in her own private purgatory and is visited there by McAvoy who sometimes plays the role of resident devil torturing her.  If it sounds confusing it is not.  It simply accentuates the many skills of creator and primary writer Sorkin.

So, by my count, there are at least three shows that borrow liberally form the Faust cannon to weave very different stories about contemporary American life.  What do we make of this?  Is it simply coincidence?  Are all the writers and producers simply mining a rich vein?  If they are just mining the question remains.  Why are they all mining this vein at this particular time?  Is it midnight in the American Cinderella story too?  September 11, 2011 is too far removed from today to suggest it has an impact here.  But it does seem like something became badly unhinged at some point in the not too distant past in this mythical America portrayed on cable.

I think it’s not 9/11 though.  It would be too cliché for all these shows to somehow reflect back to those events.  I think these shows all, in one way or another, try to answer the question, what do you do when you have everything?  Everything is at the heart of Faust and in some iterations, the character discovers everything isn’t enough while in others everything eludes him like the green light at the end of Daisy Buchannan’s dock.  In a sense they are generational shows reflecting back at baby boomers the choices they’ve made over the last few decades as the richest, most well educated but also most spoiled generation in the history of the planet.

Any way you slice it, the main characters are middle aged strivers who, like Norman Mailer, once reached the top of the mountain huffing and puffing only to ask, Is that it?  There’s never been a satisfactory answer to that one.  Maybe that’s all there is here.  Three shows that explore what it’s like to reach the top with gas left in the tank, all dressed up but with nowhere else to go.  Come to think of it, each incorporates Sisyphus too because they keep coming back anyhow.  It’s a golden treadmill and a sobering thought.  Faust may not be pretty to contemplate but these shows are entertaining as hell.