David Halberstam and Mr. Wizard.

Mr. Wizard

David Halberstam
There was a memorial in New York yesterday for David Halberstam, the former Vietnam War reporter who died a few weeks ago in an auto accident in Menlo Park, California. Halberstam was 73.

David Halberstam was the model of a war reporter. He stands in marked contrast to the gaggle of hacks that covered the lead-up to the Iraq War. He was no Judith Miller, the NY Times reporter that reprinted every lying justification for the invasion that the White House handed her.

At the memorial service at Riverside Church, Neil Sheehan a colleague from the Vietnam days recalled:

Mr. Sheehan described a day when an outpost north of Saigon fell to a Vietcong assault and the military would not let reporters fly there on military aircraft. That evening, Mr. Halberstam called the United States military commander, Gen. Paul D. Harkins, at his villa to complain.

The briefing for reporters the next day was given by a brigadier general who began, Mr. Sheehan said, “by lecturing us lowly reporters for having had the temerity to disturb the commanding general at home.”

Mr. Halberstam did not let that pass, Mr. Sheehan said. “ ‘General,’ David boomed in his great loud voice,” Mr. Sheehan said, “ ‘we are not corporals. We do not work for you. We work for our editors. If you have any complaints, complain to our editors. We will disturb the commanding general at home any time we have to do so in order to get our job done. The American public has a right to know what’s going on here. Is that clear?’

“I suspect no one had given that man a dressing-down like that since his plebe year at West Point,” Mr. Sheehan said. But he said one general at the briefing winked at Mr. Halberstam, “and the rest of us had to work hard to suppress a smile.”

Don Herbert
When I was a kid, I loved Mr. Wizard.

Don Herbert, who was Mr. Wizard on TV in the 50’s and 60’s died yesterday of bone cancer. He was 89.

In the NY Times obituary that appeared this morning, they reported that Herbert started out as an actor.

But he soon became America’s science teacher. As a young kid I was constantly amazed at what Mr. Wizard could make happen mixing every day liquids and substances. He had these two kids on the show, proxies for me, that were famous for saying, “Gee, Mr. Wizard. Why does that happen?” My question exactly. Every kid’s question.

The Times reported:

Although Mr. Herbert had some scientific knowledge from his college studies, “everything on the show I learned by doing it,” he once said. He accumulated 18 file cabinets filled with notes.

And Herbert said:
“What really did it for us was the inclusion of a child,” Mr. Herbert told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2004. “When we started out, it was just me up there alone. That was too much like having a professor give a lecture. We cast a boy and a girl to come in and talk with me about science. That’s when it took off.”

Mr. Herbert once said in an interview how “all the kids were just terrific, but they ideally had to be around 11 or 12. Once they got beyond 13, they became know-it-alls.”

Gee, Mr. Wizard. Why does that happen?

2 thoughts on “David Halberstam and Mr. Wizard.

  1. Hey, I’m almost sixty and I’m not THAT grumpy. And besides, who takes all that time to aggregate blog comments about Mr. Wizard?
    You do, I guess.

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