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Letters: Hurricanes, Bipolar Disorder, Jazz Music

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Listeners comment on last week's shows: they respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav and the challenges of living with bipolar disorder. Also, musician Wynton Marsalis gives advice on how to start listening to jazz.


It's Tuesday, the day we read from your emails and blog comments. This week, our attention is on Hurricane Ike. A week ago, it was Hurricane Gustav. As the storm came ashore in Louisiana, we talked with some of the people in the path of the storm. And the conversation stirred up old memories for Tony, a listener in Chicago. "I lived in New Orleans for 11 years until December 2006, I was stranded in Baton Rouge after Katrina and it took a good six months to find a new place to live and make it back to the city. I tried for almost a year to rebuild my life there, but I simply couldn't take the continuing evidence of devastation around me and the fact that things were taking such a long time to return to normal. So, at the age of 36, I left the place I'd lived for so long, moved to Chicago and started a new life. I find myself conflicted in my feelings about Gustav On one hand, I'm glad to have left and to have salvaged a new life out of the old one. On the other hand, I have friends still living in the city, friends who tell me how bad conditions still are three years on, and I feel an intense survivor's guilt, one which makes me feel like I should be down there evacuating, too."

During our conversation with David Lovelace, many of you called and emailed to tell us your stories about life with manic depression, he's the author "Scattershot - A Memoir Of My Bipolar Family." "It's about time people addressed this disorder for what it is, a near crippling mental illness," wrote Randy Keating. "I'm an accountant for a large non-profit in Phoenix. I live a daily struggle to control my emotions. I often feel like I'm an actor trying to portray myself as a person who is in total control when the truth is, my mind is like a radio dial stuck on seek. I can only keep up the act so long and people close to me often begin to notice my ruse. I imagine my brain as two polar forces, much like the Earth's magnetic field. They are battling for dominance over my body, but can't exist without their opposite. I will say anti-depressants, mood stabilizers and getting a dog have changed my life in an immeasurable way. Without them, I surely wouldn't had the strength to continue on."

We also got a lot of emails about our conversation with Wynton Marsalis last week, about jazz and how to listen to it, and several of you echoed a question asked during the show by caller named Asher. He's a classical pianist and wanted to know what Wynton Marsalis might recommend he listened to as an introduction to jazz. Here's what he had to say.

Mr. WYNTON MARSALIS (Jazz Musician): First of course, a pianist whose style borrows from a kind of, romantic style of Chopin and Liszt, would be Art Tatum. Get the "Art Tatum Solo Piano Masterpieces." OK, then I want you to go across to other side of the field. I want you to get an album entitled "Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington." Because I want you to just start with those two albums. They represent two, kind of, extremes and ways of playing. Thelonious Monk will help you - he has an original technique which is not at all like classical technique, but a thematic way of developing his solos. And the Duke Ellington material will be familiar songs, so it won't be that challenging to follow that. And then the Art Tatum has an unbelievable virtuosic technique.

CONAN: If you want to hear more of our conversation with Wynton Marsalis, go to our website You can listen there or download the show as a podcast.

And finally, a correction. A week ago, we talked with Reihan Salam from The Atlantic about This American Moment. He characterized Governor Sarah Palin, now the Republican nominee for vice president, and as quote, "pro-gay rights." According to several sources we talked with, that's not accurate. Palin vetoed a bill as governor of Alaska that would have denied benefits to gay state employees and their partners, but a report by the Associated Press said she did so based on the advice of the Alaska attorney general, who worried the bill would be unconstitutional, not because she specifically disagreed with it. We've asked the McCain-Palin campaign for clarification on her position. We'll bring that to you as soon as we hear back. If you have questions, comments, or corrections for us, the best way to reach us is by email. Our address is Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

CONAN: And this Talk of The Nation from NPR News. That's Art Tatum. I'm Neal Conan.

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