Pluralistic: 16 Sep 2020

Today's links

Spike Lee made a David Byrne concert movie (permalink)

Without question, the greatest concert movie of all time is STOP MAKING SENSE, Jonathan Demme's 1984 film based on Talking Heads's four-night engagement at LA's Pantages theater while touring Speaking in Tongues.

Not coincidentally, the greatest rock show I saw in the 2010s was David Byrne's AMERICAN UTOPIA (I even got to see David backstage!). It built on the incredible choreography of the LOVE THIS GIANT tour (where they got the brass to do marching band choreography).

On top of that, his designers built a fantastic, eerie, easy-to-strike set reminiscent in some ways of the STOP MAKING SENSE tour – watching the hands strike that set after the show in San Jose was incredible – 15 minutes!

Now here's the incredible news: Spike Lee made a movie out of American Utopia's Broadway run, debuting on HBO Max on Oct 17:



Board unilaterally sells Mountain Equipment "Co-op" to US private equity (permalink)

It's hard to find Canadians who dislike Mountain Equipment Co-Op, the venerable, beloved co-operative outdoor store modeled on REI. Millions of us have paid $5 to join the co-op and make it our first port of all for outdoor gear.

It's being sold to a rapacious American Private Equity fund.

No. Really.

It's a sordid and disgusting tale.

About a decade ago, the board started to favour members who had operational experience over traditional board members – drawn from the co-ops rank and file.

They rammed through by-law changes in '13 that let them:

a) Disqualify potential board candidates from nomination; and

b) Recommend slates of candidates to the membership

This kicked off a spiral of ever-more-rigged elections that changed the co-op's fundamental character.

Board seats started going to people whose experience was in the C-suites of major for-profit corporations; while the executive ranks were filled with merchandisers from failed electronics stores who filled the co-op stores with stupid gadgets.

The co-op underwent disastrous expansion under this new regime, and began to lose money – $23.5m in losses on $462m in sales in 2018/19.

The board ignored members and founders who called on it to return to selling good outdoor gear at good prices:

And then, in a stroke of absolute malfeasance, they voted to sell the co-op to a US private equity firm called Kingswood Capital Management.

As a reminder, here's the private equity playbook: buy beloved companies, load them with debt, reduce the quality of their products, liquide their pension funds, collect gigantic "management fees" and walk away, leaving behind wreckage and sorrow.

MEC's board undertook this decision without putting it to the co-op membership – you know, the actual owners of MEC – who could have rescued the co-op with a modest $5-10 fee per member.

It's not clear what will become of the proceeds of the sale (the co-op owns $372m in assets) – I wouldn't be surprised if the board and C-suite of the co-op found a way to take the lion's share in "consulting fees" and similar grifts.

I have served as a board member on a Canadian co-op. This is absolutely illegitimate, reckless conduct and I hope the board is sued over it. I think they acted illegally.

Co-op members have started a petition – which has attracted 30,000 signatures in mere days. I signed it.

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Finnish Culture Minister: citizens concerned about copyright are "terrorists"

#10yrsago Official BBC DIY Dalek blueprints

#10yrsago Dark Patterns: sneaky web tricks of scam artists and dirtbags

#10yrsago Blu-Ray falls: HDCP key crack confirmed

#10yrsago Multinational record industry shill calls Canada's new copyright bill "a license to steal"

#5yrsago America's mass incarceration of black people: the most important essay you'll read today

#5yrsago Notorious Islamophobic mayor of Irving, TX worried Ahmed Mohamed's arrest will negatively impact town police

#5yrsago Han Solo in Carbonite Pop Tarts

#5yrsago For the first time ever, a judge has invalidated a secret Patriot Act warrant

#5yrsago Kilton Library's Tor node is back online

#5yrsago Making while brown: Texas schoolchild arrested for bringing homemade clock to school

#1yrago Tolkien's Lobelia Sackville-Baggins is probably a misogynist satire of women's rights campaigner Victoria Sackville-West

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Kottke (, Naked Capitalism (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 503 words (61542 total).

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