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No. 619: The City Built on Sand

No. 619: The City Built on Sand

📅 Today, Davis talks about building, Jerod reviews The Shift, and Megan catches us up with the latest on the manifesto and comments on another recent high-profile crime.

Good afternoon, everyone.

Why can't we have a populism that builds? That's the title of a recent Substack by writer Aaron Renn about how rarely American politicians concern themselves with making "tangible, physical improvements in public goods and services." He cites El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele as an example of what this sort of populism looks like.

Set aside for a second whatever misgivings you have about Bukele's criminal crackdown in the nation once noted for having the highest homicide rate in the world, and look at what he’s actively promoted since reducing the homicide rate to below that of Nashville.

Renn lists a number of public works improvements that Bukele has spearheaded, from rebuilding a public plaza to the construction of a new National Library and new hydroelectric dam. The throughline in Bukele's self-promotion is that he is actively and materially making his country a better and easier place to live, with an eye on the future. He refers consistently to the nation’s “collective inheritance.”

You could argue that Mayor O'Connell is of this "builder" populist brand, but I'd take issue with that, if only because the narrow focus of what he wants to build—bus lines—doesn't benefit all that many people given the nature of Nashville as a commuter city and one of the most car-dependent metro areas in the country.

It doesn’t have to, but today's transit rhetoric unfortunately collides with more abstract progressive "improvement" initiatives that seem to exist only on paper, requiring a constant drumbeat of press and PR to remind people that they’re solving problems in the first place.

Cleaning up rampant crime, which overwhelmed and obscured all other government initiatives, cleared the way for Bukele to make good on his promise to improve El Salvador for El Salvadorans. Nashville is facing a similar dilemma, beset by unconstrained crime, failing public education, and overly restrictive zoning laws.

A Nashville builder would identify these as the city’s biggest problems, then work tirelessly to resolve them before moving on to other civic improvement projects– projects that would otherwise fail because they’d be built amidst the ruins of a city already failing its residents.

The city government doesn’t seem to understand this, preferring to parrot pablum when people raise concerns and move on to talking about equity or inclusiveness or affordability or some other equally arcane concept that promises to deliver us from whatever bogeyman is believed to lurk on the other side of actually doing something.


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The Shift brings authentic moral weight to the multiverse genre.

From Jerod Hollyfield

Over the past five years, film producer Ken Carpenter and his company, Nook Lane Entertainment, have played a vital role in turning Franklin into one of the country’s most robust moviemaking hubs. With projects like the 2021 romcom Finding You and September’s Surprised by Oxford, Carpenter has shepherded early-career directors and their projects into some of the best films of their release years. More impressively, he has been able to do so while largely working in the oft-maligned faith-adjacent genre, proving that productions outside the Hollywood bubble can connect with viewers while developing their own distinct styles.

With his record of low-key, theologically dense, character-driven dramas largely set in pristine corners of Great Britain, Carpenter opting to make a down-and-dirty dystopian sci-fi picture in the less photogenic areas of Birmingham seemed a bit off-brand. However, The Shift not only retains the sophisticated treatment of faith Carpenter has brought to his other films but also proves a distinct and formidable entry in the multiverse storytelling subgenre that has become a cornerstone of our popular culture.

Continue reading...


Earlier this year, a group of Covenant parents requested the right to intervene and prevent the manifesto’s release. Yesterday, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled in their favor. Their suit cited Tennessee’s Crime Victims' Bill of Rights, and later Rule 24 of the Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure regarding intervention, maintaining that the “records in Metro’s custody contained confidential information concerning facility schematics and employees of the Church.”


That being said, the battle over the release of Hale’s writings is far from over. The case will be kicked back to the Davidson County Chancery Court, where Judge I'Ashea L. Myles sided with the parents back in May. Things may also take a turn if the plaintiffs arguing for the release of the documents, which include the Tennessee Firearms Association, the National Police Association, state senator Todd Gardenhire, and the Tennessee Star, decide to appeal yesterday’s ruling to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

According to John Harris of the Tennessee Firearms Association, the TFA board will put out a statement outlining next steps once they’ve assessed their options. We also spoke with the Star’s Michael Patrick Leahy, who directed us to their report on the ruling printed yesterday.

“The Chancery Court ruling to allow the intervention was a clear violation of Tennessee statutes, as was today’s ruling by the Court of Appeals,” Leahy said. “We are evaluating our options, which may include directly appealing this faulty decision to the Tennessee Supreme Court.”


This Wednesday, we touched on MNPD’s apprehension of Corye Stone for a carjacking he committed the day before. According to criminal records, Stone had been arrested for firearm theft on three separate occasions since June. 

At today’s media roundtable with Mayor O’Connell, we asked about the dangerous, sometimes deadly consequences Nashville has been experiencing as a result of “catch and release” policies. For his part, O’Connell acknowledged the problem isn’t MNPD’s ability to apprehend offenders, and that the current process deserves a closer look: “This is going to involve… some initial review of that criminal legal process that will involve the District Attorney's Office [and] the judiciary.”

Though there is no scheduled agenda to pursue these issues in Metro, O’Connell stated, he intends to address it by the end of the year. “I think there are some real questions about how bond is set and who is getting released.”


School Board votes to close one of northeast Nashville’s highest performing elementary schools (Firefly) Board Chair Rachael Anne-Elrod led those opposing the renewal, utilizing comparisons involving schools less diverse and more wealthy located outside northeast Nashville to make the case Rocketship hasn’t proven it’s doing a better job than the district.

Metro Arts Fails to Deliver Promised Grants (Banner) Going into the 2023-24 budget cycle, the agency attempted to make the grant process more equitable, allowing independent artists and small organizations to get a bigger piece of the pie. But organizations of all sizes are still waiting for their grant money, compounding already existing questions about Metro Arts’ strategy and management.

City Wraps Voting on Participatory Budgeting Proposals (Scene) The $10.7 million project underwent abrupt leadership changes twice in five months. The 35 proposed projects — one for each council district — reflect unaddressed neighborhood needs across Davidson County.

Former ambassador and Republican politician sues to block Tennessee voting law (AP) The 1972 state law requiring primary voters to be “bona fide” party members or “declare allegiance” to the party has rarely been invoked, but legislators voted this year to require polling places to post warning signs stating that it’s a crime to vote in a political party’s primary if you are not a bona fide member of that party.


  • New Rendering Brings Retail Space To Life At Luna Apartments In Nashville (Now Next)
  • Whiskey-centric neighborhood bar opens in Germantown (NBJ)
  • Downtown mixed-use building sells for $75M (Post)
  • Apartment building eyed for Nations-area site (Post)
  • Antioch slated for county’s first In-N-Out Burger (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.

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


🎻 Home Alone in Concert @ Schermerhorn Symphony Center, 7:30p, $98+, Info

🪕 The Cowpokes @ Acme Feed & Seed, 12p, Free, Info

🍀 Live Irish Music @ McNamara’s Irish Pub, 6p, Free, Info

🎸 Kelly’s Heroes @ Robert’s Western World, 6:30p, Free, Info

🎸 Nothing Personal @ Springwater, 9p, $10, Info


The latest releases and special screenings hitting Music City this week. For a list of new and upcoming films, check out our 2023 Movie Guide.

The Shift An average guy (Kristoffer Polaha) finds himself as the last hope for an urban dystopia after avoiding the temptations of a sketchy cosmic businessman (Neal McDonough) in this visually impressive and politically savvy contemporary update of Job that swaps out rural anguish for multiverse fascism. With Sean Astin and Rose Reid. The latest from Franklin-based producer Ken Carpenter. Read our review here. Now playing in theaters. 

The Boy and the Heron + 5 Studio Ghibli Classics Audiences have to wait until Wednesday to see Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki’s latest. But in celebration of the director’s deeply personal reflection on WWII by way of a fantastical journey with a heron, The Belcourt has programmed a retrospective of his greatest hits all month. Begins this week at the Belcourt. The Boy and the Heron opens at The Belcourt and in theaters nationwide on Wednesday, December 6th. 

Silent Night After a two-decade Hollywood hiatus, Hong Kong action pioneer John Woo makes his comeback with a largely dialogue-free tale of a vigilante father (Joel Kinnaman) who loses his son and voice in the crossfire of a gang war on Christmas Eve. Expect the best seasonally appropriate down-and-dirty action flick since Mel Gibson’s Fatman. Now playing in theaters. 

Godzilla Minus One The king of the monsters returns to his Japanese roots as the nation deals with the fallout of WWII in the latest imported entry of the enduring franchise. Now playing in theaters

See the full list
In case you missed it...

📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

No. 618: Blocked!
📅 Today, Davis ponders his next move, Jerod reviews the movie Thanksgiving, and Megan looks at the latest from the airport and Meta’s efforts to censor lawsuits against it.
No. 617: Educating Everyone and No One
📅 Today, Davis talks about Bill Lee’s announcement yesterday and Megan digs deeper into the state’s issues with keeping repeat offenders off the streets.
No. 616: We Fixed Traffic
📅 Today Davis solves traffic, we revisit Jerod’s piece on Hillsdale from last year in light of the pending school voucher push, and Megan takes another look at the sketchy rules around the city’s participatory budgeting.
No. 615: Overserved
📅 Servings, College Football, School Boards, Much More!
No. 614: Black Friday Looms
🦃 Black Friday, Metro Council, Thanksgiving, Not Stolen, Racetrack Plan, and Much More!


  • 🦃 With Thanksgiving, a titan of horror proves he’s also one of America’s most savage social critics. (Read)
  • 🌄 A review of Jeff Fynn-Paul’s Not Stolen: The Truth About European Colonialism in the New World (Read)
  • 🎉 Rediscovering the suburban roots of Taylor Swift, the world’s biggest popstar, may be the city’s only way to stave off its decline (Read)
  • 🎞 The Pamphleteer's Fall 2023 Streaming Guide (Read)
  • And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.