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Friday, November 18, 2005

Answering La Malkin

It's cold on them thar hill.

NOTHING NEW. Those of you who read Michelle Malkin's blog know that she has been away for a couple of days and that others have been posting on her behalf. She checked in early this morning, though, to explain that she's on a whirlwind book tour which unaccountably landed her in Ithaca, New York. The experience seems to have surprised her:

So, Ithaca is basically the Berkeley of upstate New York. I had no idea it was that bad. Apparently, the city has its own politically correct currency (which sports the phrase "In Ithaca We Trust"). And a police officer described Ithaca to me this way: "10 square miles surrounded by reality."

Ithaca is also home base to moonbat Rep. Maurice (Rove planted the Rathergate memos!) Hinchey.

Who cares about Kansas? The real question is: What on earth did they put in Ithaca's drinking water?

It's not the water, Michelle. It's a bunch of other things that most people aren't interested in, but since you've been there and now feel a faint pulse of curiosity, I'll risk boring everyone else to death by giving you a real answer. It's in three parts.

The Inferiority Complex

The biggest influence on Ithaca is, as you already know, Cornell University. Cornell is an Ivy League institution but despite the automatic lustre this affords, the place has serious self-esteem issues. Why? No other Ivy school is the second most prestigious university in its state. Columbia is in New York City, a small undergraduate school with a large and illustrious array of graduate schools. Cornell, on the other hand is a large undergraduate school with a smaller and slightly less renowned array of graduate programs. There are also some fracture lines in Cornell's identity. Its medical school, for example, is located not in Ithaca but New York City. Worse, Cornell is partly a (gasp) state university, the only Ivy with an agriculture school. There's also a school of hotel administration that's part of the state system. Should these circumstances make Cornell neurotic? No. But they do. The Columbia factor has caused Cornell to become obsessively fascinated with... (drumroll, please) Harvard!!??

No, it doesn't make sense but obsessions rarely do. Is it a contributing factor that in the Ivies only Cornell and Harvard have school colors in the red part of the spectrum? No one can say. At any rate, Cornellians have a long tradition of hating Harvard, to whom they continually compare themselves with unwelcome results. In all the areas where they compete -- law, medicine, business, architecture, the arts and sciences, Harvard is harder to get into, more honored, more famous, and more respected. And by the laws of perversity that govern such things, Cornell has in many ways become what it most hates. If Harvard is notoriously left wing, Cornell must be more so.

The Isolation

Ithaca is hundreds of miles from anywhere, marooned in the snow belt of upstate New York. Cornell sits on a hilltop overlooking the City of Ithaca, and thus its students live through a very long winter directly exposed to the icy blasts that make it hard to trudge to the classroom and almost unthinkable to undertake long journeys elsewhere. This means that there is very little interaction with what outsiders might call the real world, with the result that the leftist atmosphere feeds on itself, intensifying into a kind of wintry tornado. There's another pernicious effect as well. Cornell students by virtue of their isolation frequently begin to identify Ithaca as their home; it's the only place they've been for years. There's a remarkable percentage of Cornell students who graduate or drop out and then stay in Ithaca, perpetual college town residents with everything that implies. Berkeley may be an apt comparison, but it may not go far enough. The Cornell/Ithaca community may be worse.

Depression

A cold, bleak island of academics suffering from an inferiority complex. That's bad enough to make anyone blue. But there's more. Ithaca sits on a glacial lake, and the Cornell campus is trisected by deep glacial gorges. For many many years, Cornell also had a tradition of grading harder than any other Ivy school. It was, for example, really quite easy to flunk out of the engineering school. (Try flunking out of the undergraduate program at Harvard; just try...) This may no longer be the case, but today's inflated grading system cannot entirely undo the long ingrained Cornell tradition of -- suicide. Every incoming student is shown the gorges and informed by smug upperclassmen that the real statistics on gorge jumpers at Cornell are a dark and terrifying secret.

Add to this the sad fact that Cornell's otherwise beautiful campus used to be principally landscaped with elm trees, which mostly perished in the Dutch elm disease epidemic long long ago. A barren hilltop, wind, snow, and ice, bad grades, loneliness, deep gorges... you get the picture. There is nothing blacker than the nihilism of the hard left, and therefore nothing more emotionally appealing to the castaways of Ithaca, New York.



Does that help explain what you found on your visit, Michelle? (For the rest of you, if you're still with us, this entry may also help you understand what's up with Cornellian Keith Olbermann.)

POSTSCRIPT. In her Ithaca entry, Michelle Malkin also included a sly link to a post she liked but didn't want to openly endorse on her website. It went here, to a disrespectful commentary about Maureen Dowd's feet. For the record, InstaPunk noted this peculiar anatomical misfortune much earlier, as well as the possibility that Ms. Dowd suffers from body image problems generally.

ERRATA. It's just been pointed out to us that this is the 666th InstaPunk entry. In honor of that milestone, we must give a definite nod to Harry, First Babe of the Boom, who reached another important milestone this year.







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