Saturday, February 26, 2011

Operation Mincemeat

My middle name is Clifton. I've often wondered what prompted my parents to pick that name (my mother told me I was named after my paternal grandfather... but his name was actually Clifford...??). I may have inadvertently found the answer... and if not, it still makes a good story.

My father is a big fan of spy novels. John le CarrĂ© is his favorite author (sadly, I've never been a fan of le CarrĂ©... although I'm willing to give him another go). My father also served in the US Navy (from the mid forties through the mid fifties). His rate was Electrician's Mate and he worked in communications, somewhat peripherally connected to intelligence (at least that's my impression from the few conversations we've had about it).

What does this have to do with my middle name, Operation Mincemeat, etc? I recently purchased a book about Operation Mincemeat (downloaded to Audible actually) and was reading about the event on Wikipedia. Wiki listed a movie, made in 1956, titled The Man Who Never Was, depicting the events of Operation Mincemeat. The starring actor was Clifton Webb.

See?? Chain of events... father works in intelligence--> big fan of spy novels (mostly concerning Europe)--> sees movie released in 1956 about espionage operation during WWII in Europe--> admires the leading actor in movie--> has male child in 1959--> casts about for meaningful name --> ...

Well... who knows. I'll ask him, of course, but at this point in our lives (he is 80 years old after all) I suspect I'll get a standard disavowal of any remembrance or knowledge of why they picked that name for me.

Still, it makes a good story...

Friday, February 25, 2011

A little late... who am I kidding, a LOT late. Anyway, here it is...

My best reads of 2010:

1. Easily topping the list are the three books comprising the Millennium trilogy

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl Who Played With Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The movies are also very good (the last two only recently became available for the US). They are Swedish and thus subtitled for us English speaking folk... but that wasn't a distraction for me, and added to their authenticity.

2. Best non-fiction

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

3. Best science fiction: this is a tie between

the Dread Empire's Fall trilogy by Walter Jon Williams
and Player of Games by Iain Banks

4. Honorable mention goes to

Pharoah's Army by Tobias Wolff
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonsen
The Deliverance of Physick Dane by Katherine Howe

A complete list (along with commentary) of the books I read in 2010 can be found here.