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No. 629: Kicking Into Gear
Photo by Kieran White / Unsplash

No. 629: Kicking Into Gear

🎄 Christmas is upon us 🎁 Gift guide 📚 Plenty Downtown Bookshop in Cookeville 🚗 Is your car spying on you? 📬 Much more!

Good afternoon, everyone.

Thank you to all who attended Bar Hours last night at Von Elrod's. We'll resume these in a more consistent manner starting in the new year. What happens at Bar Hours, stays at Bar Hours.

A full newsletter for you this morning. We released our Christmas Gift Guide, Jerod takes a look at Plenty Downton Bookshop in Cookeville, Megan catches us up on what our federal representatives have been up to in D.C. lately, and finally, we furnish our weekly film rundown.


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Plenty Downton Bookshop furthers Cookeville’s quiet transformation into one of the state’s most impressive cultural hubs.

From Jerod Hollyfield

When Ashley Michael made the move from Oxford, MS, to Cookeville, TN, nearly a decade ago, running an independent bookstore was the furthest thing from her mind. A mother of four, she stuck to a rigorous schedule as she and her husband, Dr. Tony Michael, balanced parental duties with adjusting to life in the town that is home to Tennessee Tech, where he is a Counseling and Psychology professor.

But, as the pandemic receded, Michael decided she wanted to act upon her love of the written word. Months of conversation with her friends, Lisa and Dave Uhrik, led the trio to kick around ideas to see if they were viable. “And then last summer, it felt like the timing was just right,” Michael said. “And so we sort of said, ‘Well,  let's do this. Let's open a bookshop in Cookeville.’”

With a population of just under 36,000, Cookeville may not seem like the ideal city to launch an indie bookstore in the vein of Nashville’s “world famous” Parnassus. After all, nearby Knoxville has only been able to sustain two non-secondhand bookstores in recent years. However, even though Knoxville’s greater metro area is twenty-nine times the size of Cookeville, the largest city in the Upper Cumberland welcomed Plenty Downtown Bookshop as its third bookstore when Michael and the Uhriks opened in summer 2022.

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Yesterday, Senator Bill Hagerty and his Florida colleagues, Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, introduced the Trusted Foreign Auditing Act, which, according to their press release, would forbid Chinese companies to use auditors connected to the Communist Party. 

The legislation amends the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was passed in 2022 to “help protect investors from fraudulent financial reporting by corporations.” In the house, Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) introduced its companion H.R. 6769, and wrote an op-ed with Rubio explaining the circumstances. This adjustment comes after years of companies dodging the protections put in place by 2020’s Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, which requires “China-based companies to make their audits available to US inspectors or else be de-listed from U.S. stock exchanges.” 

“Chinese firms have used dishonest auditors with ties to the Chinese Communist Party in an attempt to sidestep the law,” the senators said in a statement. “The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) found these auditors were not meeting American auditing standards.”

“For too long, Chinese companies have been allowed to access our capital markets without complying with our nation’s auditing requirements,” said Senator Hagerty. “ I’m pleased to join Senator Rubio on this legislation that will force transparency from these companies.” 


Yesterday, Middle Tennessee’s Congressman John Rose explained why he voted “no” on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2024. It’s not for the reasons you might think.

“In what has become a typical Christmas tradition in Washington, Congress couldn’t resist its desire to attach an extremely unpopular program to a piece of must-pass legislation,” said Rep. Rose. “It’s shameful. Because of this backroom deal, Americans’ constitutional right to privacy will continue to be trampled on…. I could not support this bill because of the inclusion of such an egregious and flagrant poison pill that violates our constitutional principles.” 

The poison pill? An inability to keep car manufacturers’ data collection in check. A consumer privacy study conducted by Mozilla unearthed some disturbing discoveries: as it turns out, connecting your phone to your car enables companies to extract your data– including your purchasing history, employment, and health information— and sell it to the highest bidder. For most people, that’s not a jaw-dropping surprise. However, the number of car manufacturers that do this— eighty-four percent of the companies who participated in this study– and the amount of data that’s sold—seventy-six percent—may come as a shock to some. 

In keeping with the Chinese interference theme, countries around the world have questioned technology embedded in electric vehicles imported from China. The New York Post pulled a quote from former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff’s book, Exploding Data. It sounds like he saw this coming: “You’re learning a lot about people’s day-to-day activities and that becomes part of what I call ubiquitous surveillance. Companies have to ask themselves, ‘Is this really something we want to do in terms of our corporate values, even if it means otherwise forgoing that market?'”


Metro's airport board takes major step to affirm decisions made by state board (NBJ) At the Dec. 13 committee meetings, the board took a major step toward resolving maybe the biggest looming question it faces: what, if anything, it should do about the 19 votesthat the state board took during its four months in power.

TDOT audit shows lack of inflationary adjustments (Center Square) An audit of Tennessee’s Department of transportation shows the department hasn’t properly adjusted estimates based on inflation, hasn’t done a proper information systems update analysis in six years and did not have a consistent evaluation system for rest area maintenance.

In Special Meeting, Metro Arts Director Answers Questions on Missing Grants (Banner) Metro Finance and Metro Legal departments blamed for delay in funding to arts organizations and artists.

Belmont lands largest gift in school history (Post) Belmont University has announced it has received a record $32 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. — a figure that is twice the dollar amount of the school’s previous high-mark gift.


  • Developer continues buying north side sites surrounding brewery (Post)
  • Nations property set for project sells for $10.4M (Post)
  • Lafayette Street site listed for $2.5M (Post)


View 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.

✹ WEEKLY FILM RUNDOWN: December 15-21

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.

Poor Things Frankenstein gets turned on its head with Willem Dafoe as a version of the good doctor in the latest from Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite; The Lobster). Emma Stone stars as a reanimated corpse who makes a debauched journey across Europe marked with ruthless satire and gut-punch dark humor. The last of the season’s major award contenders that could prove one of the year’s best. Now playing at the Belcourt. Opening wide on 12/22. 

Wonka The world wasn’t exactly clamoring for a Willy Wonka prequel, but armed with some new songs, the director of Paddington, a populist undercurrent, and an off-the-wall Timothée Chalamet, it’s a holiday must-see. Now playing in theaters. In 4D Smell-O-Vision at Regal Opry Mills 20.

Holiday Classics at The Belcourt  Celebrate all December long with The Belcourt’s latest curated collection of seasonal flicks. In addition to its signature revival of It’s a Wonderful Life Christmas week, there’s no shortage of holiday hits and unorthodox entries from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Die Hard to Gremlins and Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush. This weekend brings the criminally underseen screwball comedy Remember The Night about a petty thief (Barbara Stanwyck) romancing the lawyer (Fred MacMurray) who bails her out. Todd Haynes’s stone-cold masterpiece Carol plays all day Monday. 

Christmas with The Chosen: O Holy Night Angel Studios has combined and re-edited two episodes of its crowdfunded series about Christ’s life for a special big-screen affair. 

Fireworks/Shamarikh Two Italian teens nurture their romance against the backdrop of AIDS and the World Cup. Now playing at AMC Thoroughbred 20

In case you missed it...

📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

No. 628: The Tyranny of DEI
🎓 DEI overreach 🏫 Carol Swain responds 💥 Updates on Second Avenue 📬 Much more!
No. 627: Dollar Pig
🍻 Bar Hours returns tomorrow (12/14) at 6 p.m. at Von Elrod’s in Germantown. Join us for a beer to celebrate the end of the year. Good afternoon, everyone. The Beacon Center released their annual Pork Report this week highlighting instances of wasteful spending in the state. There were
No. 626: Signs of Life
🏈 The Titans jolt back to life 🌾 What growth means for Middle TN’s small towns ⚾️ MLB in Nashville 📬 Much more!
No. 625: Tornadoes Roll Through Middle Tennessee
🌪 On the tornadoes that cut through Middle Tennessee Saturday 🏈 Commemorating the life of Frank Wycheck 📬 And more.


No. 624: The War on Pants
👖 There’s a war on pants 🎞 Anne Hathaway’s latest performance 🚨 TBI human trafficking report 📬 Much more!


  • 🏘 The double-edged sword of prosperity in Tennessee's small towns (Read)
  • 🏟 All-time Houston Oiler and Tennessee Titan great, Frank Wycheck, dies at 52 (Read)
  • 🎓 A review of Ian Prior’s Parents of the World Unite!: How to Save Our Schools from the Left’s Radical Agenda (Read)
  • 🎞 The Pamphleteer's Fall 2023 Streaming Guide (Read)
  • And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.