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A Brother Remembers Frank McCourt
Malachy McCourt was born in Brooklyn, USA and from the age of three was raised in Limerick, Ireland. He returned to the land of his birth at the age of twenty and again worked at the manual tasks such as longshoreman, truck loader, dishwasher, until he became an actor. That career took him to Broadway and Off-Broadway and regional theatres in plays such as Mass Appeal, Da, The Hostage, Inherit the Wind, Carousel and Translations. The soap operas such as Ryan's Hope, Search for Tomorrow, One Life to Live, and All My Children were also a good source of work and sustenance as were the movies Molly Maguires, She's the One, The Devil's Own, Green Card, and TV movies such as You Can't Go Home Again and The Dain Curse. Due to a heavy schedule of writing, book signings and public appearances McCourt had to take a sabbatical from the acting trade but is now back after completing five movies Happy Hour, Guru of Sex, Gods and Generals, and Ash Wednesday plus a running part in the HBO prison series Oz. As well as being the co-author of the play A Couple of Blaguards with his brother Frank, Malachy has written his own New York Times bestseller memoir, A Monk Swimming, published by Hyperion Press. His memoir, Singing My Him Song, now out in paperback is published by Harper Collins. Running Press recently published four of Malachy’s books: the history of the song Danny Boy, a history of The Claddagh Ring, Voices of Ireland, an anthology, and Malachy McCourt’s History of Ireland. Recent books, Harold Be Thy Name and Bush Lies in State, are published by Welcome Rain. In the works is I Never Drink When I’m Sober for Harper Collins. Malachy writes a column, Sez I to Myself, that appears in the Manhattan Spirit, The Westsider and Our Town in NYC.
Question: What was it like to lose your older brother last year?
Malachy McCourt: To lose one parent is a tragedy, to lose both is utter carelessness. So, it’s a euphemism. Frank died in July. And he wrote “Angela’s Ashes” in 1996. And he had just retired a year or so before from teaching in a New York City High School system. And I always knew he was a good writer, or a wonderful writer, and I begged him for years to write a book. Now, I didn’t know what he was going to call it. We were very good friends. We wrote a play together called “A Couple of Blaguards,” which we performed. We talked to each other on a daily basis. And he was, when my father left, although Frank was only 10, he actually took over then as the Paterfamilias – the father of the family. And he was good. He looked after us all even though I was only a year, a month, and a day younger. He was smaller than me, but he was the only smaller person that I looked up to. And all his life, he was a good friend, a decent guy, great sense of humor, extraordinary intellect, and loved passing on his knowledge. All of his students adored him because he had the advantage of having no formal education in the sense that he did have – he left school like I did at the age of 13, and he went back when he was 22. And somehow or another faked his way into New York University and got himself a degree after being on probation, and then became a teacher.
So, he wasn’t circumscribed by ordinary thinking about teaching. If a teacher loves what she is teaching, or he is teaching as the case may be. Then again, you pass that on, the love of it, rather than punishment. “Ah, we have a test!” This is what we are always doing with children, testing. Our children don’t need testing, they need loving. And that was Frank’s idea. Love them. Love what you’re talking about, love the words.
There was an Irish poet named John Millington, and he said, “Words, particularly in a play, should have the texture of a crisp, autumn apple.” That’s the way I think of it. And I think that’s the way Frank thought about it, too.
Question: Has your father deserting your family influenced how you are as a father?
Malachy McCourt: Where we grew up, having a father desert you was shameful. So, you felt ashamed at not having a father. Other kids talked about their fathers, and their fathers supported them, their fathers looked after them, their fathers stood up for them. And we had nobody, ever, to do that for us. And so, now here’s the odd thing about being alcoholic. I was not a good father in my first marriage. Although there are ways of deserting the family without leaving physically, I was deserted in my head. I was always out, always in the saloons, always drinking, always messing about. But when I was with the kids, they always said they enjoyed me. That’s what it was. Because being a kid myself, I loved playing and I loved playing with words, and making up things and riddles and songs and not afraid of being silly in public. So they liked that. But it wasn’t being, really being a father. And then when we divorced, there was visitations and stuff.
But I think in the second marriage, we have two kids, and a step-daughter, and then the other two; I sort of cemented my relationship with my kids from my first marriage. So now I get along – more than get along, we have a good relationship with all of them, and the little grandchildren. And I think they think well of me, I hope they do anyway. And if they don’t, well, of course, there’s nothing I can do about it, and it won’t be from want of trying.
Question: What is your secret to a 45-year marriage?
Malachy McCourt: I think that 45 years that people are apt to start thinking, well it’s the same old blah, blah, blah. But I’m constantly astounded at Dianna’s mind. She has a wonderful intellect and I love to hear what she has to say. And we never run out of things to talk about. The other is, that the act of saying, “I love you,” which I do every morning, is extremely important. And that immediately starts the day with a bit of a smile, no matter what. And if you’re in the middle of a disagreement, which all couples have, you could come up with something like, “Have you ever thought of the erotic capabilities of a parsnip?” What? Then you get a laugh, you see. And the other thing is that I find, we have unspoken agreements which are, that we don’t say, “You never –" Never say that. “You always –" Never say that. And never make any reference to the other person’s family. “You’re just like your –“ because that is out, completely. That keeps things on an even keel most of the time. And I like her as well, she’s a great friend. So, that’s my marriage anyway. And loving. Keep loving, that’s all there is too it. We hug and we kiss and make love, and it’s great.
Recorded on March 10, 2010
"He was the only smaller person that I looked up to," says his younger brother Malachy.
Join The Daily Show comedian Jordan Klepper and elite improviser Bob Kulhan live at 1 pm ET on Tuesday, July 14!
Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".