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If Bill Veeck Came Back for the Cubs

Wed, 2015-10-21 14:47
If the spirit of the late Bill Veeck were to come back every October? Where would you find that spirit? And could he help the Cubs?

The Crack of The Bat

The cold autumn rains of October started when the game was almost over. Sheets of crying rain against the lights of the stadium. Wrigley Field slowly draining, the crowds taking one last look, the giant switch thrown and the empty park goes dark.

Except for the huddled figure sitting in the darkness of the center field bleachers.

Veeck. Waiting for every October to come back.

You hear the crack of an unseen bat hit a ball that comes soaring into view, climbing, arcing off into the distance as if the ball could literally go on forever.

You think, "go on forever" and somehow another switch is thrown and you are back under a summer sky, back in Giametti's 'green fields of the mind.' You smell summer again, hear the crowd cheer, listen as a pop top fizzles open a beer Veeck hands you as he says, "you know what used to be here? I mean long before the park. Long ago, a seminary stood on these grounds. Place they trained ministers."

"What happened?"

"Oh I guess some of those gin joints on Clark Street got a little bit loud. That's when the church up and sold the place. Not a real good place to be studying theology I guess."

"Maybe the religion part left a little something here? I mean, here you are. I remember your funeral. As distinguished a gathering of baseball royalty I've ever seen."

"That's right," said Veeck. "You and your pal Larry, you were there. I meant to thank you for that."

"Hey, we're just fans. We're here to thank you. Kind of amazing you'd be thanking us."

"Well, that's one of the things about the game. It's for everyone. It's a place where we can all say thanks. I remember when I owned what, the St. Louis team? Or was it the White Sox? The teams all run together now where I am. All those silly little rivalries where someone is hating someone else. All that's gone for me. Now I just think about saying thanks. Fact is, what story was I telling? Oh yeah. Some guy calls the park, asks 'what time does the game start?' and I just say, 'What time can you get here?'

I tell you though Mr. Veeck, sure doesn't seem like baseball is for everyone. All the money grubbing stuff. Taking the games off regular TV so folks can't watch. All that greed..."

"Well, you're right young man. That's been a problem since those factory boys back in Central Park started hitting balls with sticks and some genius said, "Hey, you think there could be some money here?

The greed does its best to get in the way. Sometimes, lotta times it wins. But does that make it right? No, the game is here for everyone. Sometimes its just really, really hard to find."

"How do I make sure I can find the game, Mr. Veeck? How do I made sure to hear that welcome, say those thanks, feel that summer breeze?"

"Well son, I guess the best way to say it, is that you got to look for those moments."


"Like in the game tonight. Right fielder throws up his arms because a ball gets lost in the ivy planted on the wall. Cubs save a run because the ball is lost in the ivy. Now, you know anywhere else that could happen?"

"No sir."

"And do you know who planted that ivy?"

"Mr. Veeck, every Cubs fan knows that you planted that ivy."

"That ball getting lost tonight. That was a moment. Now what's a moment for you? You look at that ivy covered wall and you see what?"

"Me? I see Andre Dawson standing at the wall and throwing out a guy at home. A throw like some kind of magical moment?"

"See," said Bill Veeck. "That's what I mean. You find your moments and you hold them close."

"So then why are you here tonight? Why did you come back?

"Oh I'm always here. You just don't know it. Don't see it. You lose the moment. So what I do every October is that I come sit up here in the center field bleachers. Where any and all can see me if you look hard enough. And then here above the orange, red brown splashes of the autumn leaves, I watch the game with anyone who might care to join me."

"You saw the game huh? Pretty depressing. Anything you can do to help the Cubs somehow come back?"

"What would I tell them? I'd tell them, listen to your manager. That Joe Maddon fella? Now there is a guy who thinks like I do. You hear what he keeps telling his players? Even now. Especially now. He tells them, 'Don't let the pain get ahead of the pleasure.'

Don't let the pain get ahead of the pleasure.

And with that message Bill Veeck faded from the center field bleachers. The October rains started up again, poured in to the sound of the message:

Don't let the pain get ahead of the pleasure.

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Wrigley Scoreboard Operator, Darryl Wilson and Hot Doug's, Doug Sohn, Dish on Life at Wrigley

Wed, 2015-10-21 11:19
I am fascinated with the scoreboard at Wrigley Field. It is made of sheet steel, as are the numbers that are manually adjusted by operator Darryl Willson to reflect the scores of the games going on at any one time in the National and American Leagues during Cubs baseball games. The scores come through on a computer and Wilson scrambles the three flights of stairs to replace the numbers and keep the scores current.

The scoreboard hails from 1937 with very few changes. The clock was added in 1941 and has incredibly never lost time since its addition. A fifth row of scores was added to each side in 1961, and later, a sixth. A set of light stands facing onto the scoreboard was added in 1988 with the introduction, sadly, of lights and night games.

An electronic message board was also added below the scoreboard; but, this has been replaced by a God-awful Wintrust video board to the West of the original scoreboard. A trap door at the bottom of the board is still the only entrance and exit.

In the podcast below, just in time for the Cubbies to be back at Wrigley for the National Championship games, I sit down with Wrigley Field scoreboard operator, Darryl Wilson, and hot dog aficionado and podcaster, Doug Sohn. Over Old Style, peanuts and Chicago dogs, we chat about life in the scoreboard, the end of a curse and our favorite memories at Wrigley Field on the most recent podcast of The Dinner Party with Elysabeth Alfano on WGN Radio's WGN Plus.

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Law Street Media Ranks the Most Dangerous Cities in Illinois

Wed, 2015-10-21 10:03
In 2014, Illinois had a violent crime rate of 370 per 100,000 people, making it the No. 21 most dangerous state in the U.S., according to a new report.

Law Street Media published its third annual rankings of America's "Safest & Most Dangerous States" for 2016 using the latest available violent crime data from the FBI. The report ranks cities with populations of at least 25,000 that have the highest and lowest violent crime rates. Those rates are based on crimes of murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault and robbery, under the national Uniform Crime Report guidelines.

While East St. Louis and Chicago were absent from Law Street's 2015 rankings because of incomplete and underreported data, both cities were included in this year's analysis.

Here are the 25 most violent cities in Illinois, as ranked by Law Street. A complete data table follows the list.

NEXT ARTICLE: WalletHub ranks Chicago as one of the top cold-weather travel destinations this winter

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New York Mets Beat Chicago Cubs To Take 3-0 Lead In NLCS

Wed, 2015-10-21 08:50

CHICAGO (AP) — Daniel Murphy is a contact hitter known for shaky fielding and occasionally getting lost on the bases.

This playoff impersonation of Babe Ruth, Roberto Alomar and Derek Jeter all rolled into one, he can't explain it. Nor can his manager.

"Question is, who is this guy?" skipper Terry Collins said.

Murphy homered in his record-tying fifth straight postseason game, Jacob deGrom pitched seven strong innings and the New York Mets beat the Chicago Cubs 5-2 Tuesday night for a 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

"I've watched a lot of baseball over the years, I don't think I've seen anybody put on this kind of a show on this stage like he has so far," Collins said. "I mean, even the guys in the dugout, they're baseball guys, too, and they're saying the same thing."

A cluster of New York fans gathered in the rain behind their team's dugout after the final out and chanted "Let's go, Mets!" And with a win Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, the Mets will be going to their first World Series in 15 years.

Rookie Steven Matz gets the start for New York in Game 4 while Jason Hammel goes for the Cubs.

Murphy tied the homer mark set by Houston's Carlos Beltran in 2004 with his drive off Kyle Hendricks in the third.

Murphy's home run was his sixth of the postseason in his 30th at-bat —he's hit just 62 in 3,354 at-bats in the regular season. The free agent-to-be second baseman also is making sharp plays in the field and showing heads-up, aggressive instincts running the bases.

"I wish I could explain it," said Murphy, who hit a career-high 14 homers in the regular season. "I would have done it like six years ago. I can't explain it."

After going 0-7 against the Cubs during the regular season, New York is overpowering them with their arms and bats.

Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright each had three hits for the Mets. Cespedes scored the go-ahead run on a two-out wild pitch by Trevor Cahill on a strikeout of Michael Conforto in the sixth inning.

DeGrom followed up dominant starts by Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard in New York with one of his own. The NL Rookie of the Year held the Cubs' big bats to just two runs and four hits. He struck out seven, walked one and retired his final 11 batters.

The righty with the flowing hair improved to 3-0 in his first postseason, with all of the wins coming on the road. Jeurys Familia closed for his fifth save of the postseason.

Kyle Schwarber had the towel-waving crowd shaking 101-year old Wrigley Field to its foundation in the first inning with his club-record fifth homer of the postseason. Jorge Soler also had them roaring with his solo drive in the fourth. But manager Joe Maddon's Cubs have just five runs in this series.

Barring an epic comeback, a World Series drought that dates to 1908 will continue. Only one other team has won a playoff series after dropping the first three games.

Theo Epstein's Red Sox came back against the New York Yankees in the 2004 AL Championship Series and ultimately ended one long championship curse. Now, the team he constructed in Chicago, that stirred the imaginations of long-suffering fans, finds itself in a similar spot.

"Of course you think about those things, you think about the parallels, think about the fact that that happened against a New York team," said Maddon, whose team posted the majors' third best record and came into this series on a 12-1 tear. "We think about all that stuff, but it's up to us to go out and play and execute."

Cespedes broke a 2-all tie after he led off the sixth with a single against Cahill. He stole third and scored with two out as Conforto swung at a 2-2 pitch in the dirt. The ball rolled to the backstop, allowing the runner to reach first and extending the inning.

Conforto was forced to stay at third when Wilmer Flores' drive rolled to the ivy in right field was called a ground-rule double. That drew a heated argument from Collins, who came back out to protest some more after he returned to the dugout.

The Mets added two more runs in the seventh to make it 5-2.

Hendricks went four innings for Chicago, allowing two runs and five hits.

"This is not the spot where we want to be, but we're here and we've got to face it," Schwarber said.

Never before had the Cubs played this late on the calendar at Wrigley Field, and the place was rocking when Schwarber tied it at 1 with his solo homer to left-center in the first.

It wasn't quite as impressive as the shot he hit to the top of the right-field videoboard that helped knock out St. Louis in Game 4 of the NLDS. That ball got encased by the Cubs where it settled.

Still, Schwarber broke the franchise record set by Alex Gonzalez and Aramis Ramirez in 2003.

Murphy made it 2-1 in the third with his drive to center off Hendricks. Besides tying Beltran's record, he also set a Mets mark with his sixth postseason homer.

UP 3-0

The Mets are the fifth team to win the first three in the NLCS since it went to a seven-game format in 1985, along with Colorado in 2007, Atlanta in 1999, San Diego in 1998 and Atlanta in 1995. New York had never led any postseason series 3-0.


Mets: Collins said RHP Matt Harvey was feeling "a lot better" and thinks his ace will be ready for Game 5, if necessary. Harvey was struck near his pitching shoulder by a comebacker in the series opener, leading to some swelling.


Mets: Matz looks to rebound from a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Dodgers. The rookie will also be making his first appearance at Wrigley Field — and his first against the Cubs.

Cubs: After tossing three innings in the clinching Game 4 of the NLDS against St. Louis, Hammel will try to extend the season.

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Colleges Have a Role to Play in Reducing Gun Violence

Tue, 2015-10-20 17:04
Robert Kennedy has been dead longer than many of today's traditional age college students have been alive. Yet, his words surfaced recently calling for us to look directly at the need for gun control and to take some action. Speaking in Roseburg, Oregon, site of one of two mass shootings that occurred in the United States that day, Kennedy spoke directly to a world in which both four-year olds and convicted murderers could purchase guns. The year was 1968. The Kennedy era seems (and, indeed, is) long ago and yet his words resonate. "Is that reasonable?" he asked, over and over again.

The answer is no.

No, it is not reasonable to live, nearly 50 years later, in a nation where guns are the cause of well over 30,000 deaths per year and in a country "with less that five percent of the world's population. . . [that is] home to 35-50 percent of the world's civilian-owned guns."

No, it is not reasonable that compared to our neighbor to the north, Canada, and to many other countries, those in the United States experience substantially higher homicide rates and deaths by firearms.

I say this as a college president. We know that the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg is not alone. Indeed, there were campus shootings in Arizona and Texas only days later.

I say this as president of a college in Chicago, a city all too often offered up as "the" site of gun violence in the United States. But we, too, know we are not alone.

I say this as an American citizen, ashamed of our ranking alongside other countries when it comes to the negative impact of guns on individual lives. I say this, too, as a white woman knowing that gun violence in our country is deeply inflected by race, social class and other axes of difference. And, I say this in October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, knowing how guns in homes contribute to this horror as well.

Kennedy asked mid-twentieth century America: "Is it reasonable?" None of this was reasonable then or now.

Spoken less than a month before his own assassination, Kennedy's words come from 1968, a mere two years after Charles Whitman shot and killed 16 people on August 1, 1966 on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Like Kennedy's words, Whitman's actions seem so long ago. Like Kennedy's words, Whitman's actions continue to resonate in the all too frequent school and college shootings that have occurred in intervening years.

While only a small proportion of the gun deaths in the United States occur on campuses, such events make it starkly evident that higher education must attend to the role of guns in American culture and bring the force of our roles to bear against the violence that is endemic in our country. Whether mass shootings or the murder of faculty for issuing low grades or tenure committees for denying colleagues, shootings on school and college campuses are so prevalent that they merit a Wikipedia entry. These are not the only shootings that matter, but they are one of the reasons colleges and universities must respond.

We cannot risk analysis paralysis, or, perhaps worse, allow the appearance of debate or political lethargy to substitute for change. That we need more education for critical thinking around such issues is both obvious and urgent. That we need action is obvious as well. What we have been doing in the 50 years since Kennedy raised his question and Whitman murdered those around him has been inadequate at best.

We can learn from neighbors like Canada, whose response to events like the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique shootings put our country to shame. And, we can learn from those whose lives have been shaped by gun violence -- from Jim Brady to the children of Sandy Hook, from those who moved on from Columbine to advocate for gun control to the men and women whose lives were wasted in Roseburg. We can learn that we need to change our world, our country, and our access to and use of guns.

This will require rejecting some voices and some dollars. It will require standing with others, and for others, like the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence or EveryTown for Gun Safety.

It will require us to risk more than talk. It will require us to be reasonable.

This October as Roseburg and UCC adjust to their unfortunate newly symbolic role alongside Columbine, Virginia Tech and, nearly 50 years ago, the University of Texas at Austin, Kennedy's ghostly words give us a crucial criterion for a role for higher education and for us all. He asked: Is it reasonable?

It is our responsibility to say no.

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'Welcome To Night Vale' Is The Indie Podcast For Your Inner Weirdo

Tue, 2015-10-20 14:12

"All that glitters is not gold. Particularly that thing over there. That's maybe a giant insect of some sort. It's really too dark to tell. Welcome to Night Vale."  - Cecil Palmer, "Night Vale" radio host (Episode 44, "Cookies")

If you've never listened to the podcast "Welcome to Night Vale," you're already less of a person. But that's okay, because you can always become more of a person. It's one of the many perks to being a person.

Every two weeks, writers Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and actor Cecil Baldwin take audiences into the small desert town of Night Vale, where real estate agents live inside deer, a five-headed dragon runs for Mayor and is also a blogger, and a faceless old woman secretly lives in your home.

It's a perfect mix of engaging storytelling and absurd humor. Think "Prairie Home Companion" meets "Twin Peaks," but where space and time sometimes don't matter.

The Huffington Post sat down with the trio to talk about the release of their new book, Welcome to Night Vale, a more traditional format for a very untraditional project.

What did you see as the biggest difference between writing the book and writing the podcast?

Joseph Fink: It’s a lot longer.

[Everyone laughs.]

Jeffrey Cranor: We decided to take it out of Cecil’s voice, because while Cecil is reading the audiobook, it is ultimately a novel, so there is about 12 hours of audiobook there. The idea of a 12-hour radio show is not what we were doing. We wanted to take it into a narrative author’s world, go around Night Vale outside of Cecil’s point of view, which allows us to see something new.

You guys were writing the book while still doing the podcast. Did you have to plan ahead since this book wouldn’t be coming out until a year further into the "Night Vale" narrative?

Jeffrey: We definitely put thought into it. We had to think about when the book was coming out, and kind of where in the vicinity of the timeline it would be. We didn’t want to write the book ignorant of the podcast timing. Months and months from now it won’t make a ton of difference because people will be picking up the book at a different point from the podcast, but I think the people who are keeping time with the podcast are probably the same people who will buy the book the day it comes out and read it immediately. 

Does the podcast, and the often odd logic of the writing, make it easier to write the book and not worry so much about continuity?

Joseph: Oh, we worried strongly about the continuity. I mean, "Night Vale" has very strict continuity. That’s sort of the thing that allows us to be as weird as we are. From the very start, we said we can doing anything we want as long as we have a strict continuity. So there’s actually a very strict continuity that goes into the book as well.

Cecil, what were your influences, voicewise? Because it seems to change from episode 1 to episode 70.

Cecil Baldwin: It changed so much. We were still trying to figure out what this character was. And it was definitely a disembodied late-night radio host voice. There were some specifics here and there but there wasn’t a true personality yet. Much like any pilot. As the show went on, we all found more about the person behind the microphone and the people around [him]. Then they’ll write more and then it reflects back on itself, performance to writing. 

From a physicality standpoint, once the show started taking off, were you very protective of your voice? Were you walking into rooms yelling, “I need a humidifier in here!”?

Cecil: [Laughs] Oh, no! It’s just years of working in the theater, there’s certain things you try to do. Honestly keeping hydrated and taking vitamins are probably the best things you can do. We have a pretty rigorous touring schedule, and it’s trying to maintain that, but for the most part for the making of the podcast and the live shows, the microphone does a lot of the heavy lifting, which helps give the performance layers.

Joseph and Jeffrey, how has your writing evolved since the start of the podcast?

Joseph: We sort of just keep trying to do new things. We write, I feel, almost exactly the same in both the work rhythm and the general goal of telling stories that seem interesting to us, and then not really worrying about outside of that. On a personal level, I just constantly try to find new things to do with the 30-minute audio format, and new ways of telling stories, and things you can do with language. And that’s just a constant search.

Jeffrey: Yeah, as a writer I find I’m always trying to find tics and habits I have that I want to phase out. Then you read other stuff and go, “Oh, this is really beautiful, I’m really inspired by this, I’m feeling more emotional lately and I’m going to talk about these types of feelings.” I think that’s just how we are as writers. You’re always taking things in and putting things back out.

Is there a "Night Vale" film in the future? And given the characteristics of space and time, is that even possible given the way the world of Night Vale works?

Joseph: Sure, I think anything’s possible.

Jeffrey: We always have people interested, whether it’s a movie or any number of things, like “Please make a 'Night Vale' keychain!” or something, you know.

Cecil: "Night Vale," the musical.

Joseph: "Night Vale," the card game.

Jeffrey: All kinds of stuff. And you know, for us, we all come from this background of theater and stage performance and writing, so the idea of going from the podcast to the stage was a really logical and obvious transition. It’s been really great because Cecil’s so great onstage and we feel very comfortable in writing for that and understanding that, and the same thing for the novel.

And you know, moving into other mediums, it just takes more time finding the right people to work with, because none of us come from the background of making a TV show or making a film or making a tabletop game [laughs]. That requires a lot more reaching out. It’s not like we hit on a thing that could get us a check written. I’m sure if we said, “Sure, write us a check,” we could find someone to write a dollar amount, but that’s not what we’re interested in doing. We actually like "Night Vale." Like, we’re not trying to sell it off.

You mentioned earlier about following a strict continuity for "Night Vale." Do you guys have a show bible the way some TV shows might?

Joseph: My only bible is the actual Bible.

[Everyone laughs.]

Jeffrey: That’s what we use, we use the actual Old Testament.

Cecil: That’s it. If it’s not in the Bible, we don’t want to talk about it.

Joseph: No, I mean we had a spreadsheet, briefly, that lasted like four episodes. Because there’s only two of us writing it, you have lot more control than if you had a staff of writers and new people coming and going and you have to keep everything stable. Which is not to say we don’t make mistakes; we constantly make continuity mistakes. And then we sort of talk our way out of them in later episodes. But yes, we depend entirely on our fragile memory.

Cecil: Somebody made a "Night Vale" wiki page. I use that all the time. You know, trying to remember if this one character in episode 50 has appeared in episode 5 and also, did that person have a specific voice? That's always a challenge and it’s easy to look online and be like, "When did X character appear, and in what episode?" and then I can go back through my sound files of old episodes and, “Oh, that’s what that person sounded like.” Then I can choose to, you know, pick up that character voice or do a more third-person read of what that person said. I think that’s the only online resource I really use. Because it is, you know, unwieldy amounts of pages and pages.

You had Will Wheaton on the show several times. Are there any other celebrities you would love to get on the show?

Joseph: Yes. Tatiana Maslany.

Cecil: Yeah!

Joseph: Tatiana Maslany. As Hiram McDaniels’ sister. I’ve been very seriously trying to get her. We’ll see how that goes. That’s my biggest dream.

Jeffrey: Barack Obama.

[Everyone laughs.]

Joseph: Oprah.

Cecil: Whoopi Goldberg. I always thought Whoopi Goldberg on the show would be amazing.

Where do you see podcasts, as a form, going? Because it hasn’t quite been monetized yet.

Cecil: Oh, don’t worry, people are always finding ways to monetize anything.

Joseph: It’s being monetized, actually, in a huge way. It's a little worrying, in the last few months, big money has really come into podcasting. Bill Simmons' podcast is produced by HBO. WNYC just announced a $15 million podcast studio. And they also had like a contest where the winners got, like, a $100K to do a podcast? GE is producing a serial drama podcast that’s 20 to 30 minutes long.

So, yeah I find that all super worrying because I think what makes podcasting really good is that it has this very low barrier of entry. You just need to have a very good and very specific idea and then you need to be able to execute that in front of a mic and then you’re on the same playing field as everyone else.

I think that’s still very much the case but I worry about that going forward as big money starts pouring into it.

Jeffrey: One of the great ways to find out about podcasts is the gatekeepers like iTunes and their lists and mysterious algorithms for why things move to the top of the list. In the four months that "Night Vale" was No. 1 overall above "This American Life," it was never because "Night Vale" had more listeners than "This American Life." That’s never been the case. We just had this surge of popularity.

Cecil: There was a dramatic spike.

Jeffrey: Once that surge came back down to a naturally steady increase, we obviously fell back below "This American Life." But for us being an independent podcast, it was a really great thing to be able to have that. And my worry comes from whether or not that can stay a thing. "Lore" is another new podcast that is interesting and independent.

Joseph: "Lore" just hit the top 10 on iTunes.

Jeffrey: And that’s great, it makes me super thrilled to see independent podcasters reaching that. And I think there’s this hope that institutions like Radiotopia can hold it together and still be at the forefront of putting new, cool stuff out there that people can discover. You know, if big money comes into it, and Bill Simmons and GE and people like that are always at the top of the list.

Joseph: Or if they can buy big ads, because at the moment the iTunes main page is an equal mix of weird independent stuff, and if you have GE podcasts and HBO podcasts, then it really kills that.

Cecil: I think a lot about the ‘90s and the independent film movement when technology became more affordable and more accessible to filmmakers. All of a sudden, you have so many more diverse films being made under the banner of independent cinema.

And then now that’s like 25 years later and IFC [Independent Film Channel] came out of that, and is IFC independent film anymore? What does that mean?

It’s sort of the natural way of things, and it’s amazing to be on the vanguard of any movement. For us, it’s just keeping it going and exploring other new avenues and new mediums.

Joseph: I used to be super into fracking until the big energy companies moved in.

[Everyone laughs.]

Cecil: Ugh, yeah it's so over.

Jeffrey: Yeah, it’s really annoying, now it’s everyone’s thing. All the hipsters are fracking.

Thanks to Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor and Cecil Baldwin. Their new book, Welcome To Night Vale is out Tuesday wherever books are sold, and probably some places where books aren't sold and the vendor is perhaps wondering where all these books came from.



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