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No. 556: That's showbiz, baby!

No. 556: That's showbiz, baby!

📅 Today, Davis talks show business, Megan peaks at O'Connell's transit obsession, and Tyler Hummel joins us to review The Essential Church.

Good afternoon, everyone.

"Politics is show business for ugly people" is one of those quotes that doesn't seem to have an origin. Like the folk song "Old Susanna" or a nursery rhyme like "Ring Around the Rosy," the comparison between American politics and Hollywood feels… organic: a totally unforced, natural observation.

Many politicians are actors, some better than others.

For their part, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson remind me of off-broadway actors trying to break into Broadway (D.C.)

At the end of yesterday's special session (you can read our coverage here), our aforementioned thespians initiated a series of moments intended to win them critical acclaim from outlets like the New York Times with the goal of building upon their previous body of work.

Pearson and Jones crowded House Speaker Cameron Sexton with signs as he left the dais, resulting in a who-pushed-who altercation that was so benign I'm embarrassed to mention it. Shouting followed. Gloria Johnson tweeted about Pearson pressing charges. The audience roared. The Covenant moms cried.

Moments later, not to be outdone by his thespian rival, Jones took to the pulpit as the floor emptied and pounded the gavel while yelling, "This house is out of order!" The crowd continued to jeer. Gloria Johnson revealed that she is 6'3" (wow).

Trump, the most skilled media manipulator to date, always plays for the cameras, but he layers his performances with intrigue as his arcane designations of friend-enemy give birth to a wholly separate vocabulary.

He intermixes slapstick comedy with wry, observational humor and tops it off with conspiratorial musings that reveal a dark, complex underbelly of corruption and subterfuge, pulling his listeners into the grand conspiracy along with him.

Neither Jones nor Pearson is talented enough to make the transition beyond Tennessee politics, in my opinion. All they can manage with their stage time is a self-serious spectacle of tears and shouts while regurgitating talking points from the 1960s.

It was a two-dimensional performance, not worthy of study. We’ve seen this movie before. It flopped at the box office. It didn’t find a cult following afterward either. This critic did not enjoy the performance. Tennesseans deserve better.



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'The Essential Church' wants to remind you what they took from you

From Tyler Hummel

A curious little documentary worked its way into the box office three weeks ago, grossing $253,000 at the domestic box office and becoming the weekend of July 28th’s 17th highest-grossing film before quietly disappearing back into the ether, that being Grace Production’s inaugural film The Essential Church—a part of one of the largest congregation in the country’s efforts to create “original biblical content with compelling storytelling to encourage and edify the church.”

Amid the current summer, where countercultural filmmaking is finding surprising success against corporatized blockbusters, The Essential Church snuck into theaters with the ambition of attempting to offer a definitive statement in the culture wars by dredging up the issue of COVID-19 lockdowns and their negative effect on American life. Sadly, it didn’t succeed in making the splash its filmmakers likely would’ve hoped. 

Continue reading...


On Monday, Alice Rolli and Freddie O’Connell joined 92Q Nashville’s Ernie Allen and Yolo Bee for a live radio mayoral forum. During the Q&A, Allen immediately started off the Q&A section by asking: “So, Mr. O'Connell, what is the most critical issue facing the city of Nashville? And how do you plan to address it, sir?” 

After taking the long way to get to a short answer—making sure to acknowledge the importance of safety and education— O’Connell hit us with a predictably Freddie response: “As we think about cost of living and quality of life, the biggest missing ingredient that every other major American city has right now is a transit system.”

O’Connell has never been shy about his desire to decrease Nashvillians’ dependency on cars. From facing off with Mayor Cooper over WeGo budgeting to eliminating parking requirements downtown, his quixotic urbanism has been a constant throughout his political career. 

Over the years, several politicians have tried to persuade Nashvillians to invest in better public transit with no luck. The truth is, the populace is split.

For some voters— namely those who reside in the urban core— this is a key issue, one they’d crawl over broken glass to vote for. For other Davidson County residents, it’s a nonstarter; they look through the windows of yet another empty WeGo bus, and wonder why their representatives keep trying to make fetch happen

During the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s mayoral forum earlier this month, O’Connell told the audience, “I can tell you from seven years on [the transit] board of directors, it is a thing that if you build it, people will ride.” While the latest statistics show that ridership is rebounding post-pandemic, on-time performance leaves much to be desired. This, coupled with route cuts, a lack of consistency, and even some safety concerns has made residents wonder what’s to be gained by focusing on transit rather than, say, crime or public education. 

Though O’Connell touts transit as his primary solution to everything— affordability, accessibility, quality of life concerns —it’s no secret that the investment comes at a cost. Transit in Nashville requires immense subsidization. Notably, during his campaign, O’Connell has neglected to address this fact. Consider that MTA’s projection for this year’s fare revenue is $5.2 million. The rest of the tab is covered by $61.6 million in local assistance, $5 million in state assistance, $4 million in federal assistance, and $24 million in American Rescue operating reimbursement. 

Though O’Connell has promised that his transit proposals won’t result in increased taxes, he’s questioned Alice Rolli’s decision to take the American Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

The question remains: given the state of crime, healthcare, and education, is now the time to put transit first? O’Connell seems to think so and has stayed consistent by setting his transit initiative at the top of his mayoral administration’s list.


FBI Did Not Inform Local Authorities Before Killing Henderson, Tennessee Man in Raid (Star) According to a Tennessee state senator, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did not inform relevant local authorities that it would be conducting a raid in Chester County that resulted in the death of a Henderson man.

18-state coalition backs Tennessee in anti-drag law ruling appeal (Center Square) South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson led the coalition that also includes Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

Lawmaker costs were more than $350K for Tennessee special session (Center Square) Each day, it cost the state $58,576 in stipends and mileage for lawmakers, according to numbers provided by Office of Legislative Administration Director Connie Ridley.


  • Night We Met bar slated for the Gulch, former Nightscape space (NBJ)
  • Mr. J's Original slated for former Hermitage Cafe space (NBJ)
  • Nashville Yards developer lands $241.3M loan (Post)
  • Nelson's Green Brier celebrates renovation (Post)


View our calendar for the week here and our weekly film rundown here.

📅 Visit our On The Radar list to find upcoming events around Nashville.

🎧 On Spotify: Pamphleteer's Picks, a playlist of our favorite bands in town this week.

👨🏻‍🌾 Check out our Nashville farmer's market guide and our 2023 southern festival guide and 🎥 2023 movie guide.


🎸 Marble Jets @ Eighth Room, 7p, Free, Info
+ Nashville rock n roll

🪕 Frank Evans Band @ Jane's Hideaway, 8p, Info

🎺 Live Jazz: Parker James, Paul DeFiglia & Caleb Breaux @ Vinyl Tap, 8p, Free, Info

🪕 Bluegrass Night @ The American Legion Post 82, 7p, Free, Info

In case you missed it...

📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

No. 555: Reaching the finish line
📅 Today, Davis crosses the finish line, Jerod reviews Quentin Tarantino’s new book, and Megan reviews the latest regarding the special session.
No. 554: Where does child end and adult begin?
📅 Today, Davis debunks a common talking point, Megan reviews what happened during special session at the end of last week, and Miles talks Tennessee college football.
No. 553: For whom the mayor speaks
📅 Today, Davis talks about how boring Freddie O’Connell is, Valerie seeks out the best rum cocktails, Megan drills into some exchanges from last night’s mayoral debate, and Jerod furnishes his weekly film rundown.
No. 552: The show must go on
📅 Today, Davis does some housekeeping and Megan wraps up the latest news regarding the “public safety” special session.
No. 551: This is what fascism looks like
📅 Today, Davis speaks on fascism, Megan looks at a bill aimed at eradicating human trafficking in the state, and Jerod reviews Oppenheimer.


  • 📕 A Review of Quentin Tarantino’s Cinema Speculation (Read)
  • 🍹 Valerie roams the town looking for the best rum cocktail (Read)
  • ⛳️ The vagueness of red flag laws brings up several red flags of its own (Read)
  • 🧠 The rise of mental illness as a trendy identity marker in America's social media era (Read)
  • And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.