June 24, 2003

No Justice in the World

I have been to the corner of Moose and Squirrel Streets in Banff, Alberta, Canada. I was distressed and desolated to find that there was no sign of the International Headquarters of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Fan Club there.

Clearly there is no justice in this world.

Posted by DeLong at June 24, 2003 08:17 PM | TrackBack

Comments

"Fearless Leader, this is Boris Badinov. First the good news: fan club is no more. Bad news is that moose and squirrel were not there as expected."

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson on June 24, 2003 09:44 PM

"No Justice in the World"

Did anybody ever think there was?

Posted by: PJ on June 25, 2003 12:56 AM

There would undoubtledly be something there, except that the Banff city council and Parks Canada deeply discourage new construction or rezoning in or around Banff. Basically, the town is strictly forbidden from ever growing another square foot. That's the price of having a town where actual, real live bears and moose wander the streets and let the tourists take pictures of them.

Nice place though. I got married at the Banff Springs Hotel. The hotel itself has a wonderful anecdote about the history of Canadian capitalism attached to it. Banff was built because the railway goes through it, and when the railway was built (1885, IIRC), all the land along the railway became the property of Canadian Pacific Rail. So, the president of CPR comes to Banff, looks at the scenery and thinks he can make a fortune building a luxury hotel there. He picks a spot with a nice view, stands on it and tells some flunky: "The hotel goes here."

So, the wheels of business churn, a hotel is designed, plans are made the boss signs off on building the hotel. Of course, since he's in Toronto and is not exactly an architect, he forgets which way the nice views are, and the plans he signs off on call for the hotel to be built backwards. He was the most powerful and feared businessman in Canada - being boss of the railway and all - so no one ever tells him that the plan is backwards. They build exactly the plan he signed. As a result, all the nice, big, luxury state rooms face the opposite direction from the beautiful view, while the cheap rooms have a view to die for. Also, the main entry way, the nice one with the room for a carriage, is on the opposite side of the hotel from the road, so if you do have a room with a view, you have to put up with horse (and later car) smells and noises.

This situation persists until 1998. By now, Canadian Pacific Railways has abandonned the long-past-collapsed railway industry. It's owned, and lost, an entire airline. All it has left is a chain of gorgeous historical luxury hotels built along all the main railways in Canada. So, a century later, they decide to remodel the entire Banff Springs Hotel, shutting it down for two years while they tear up the entry way on the wrong side and build a new one on the right side, and reconstruct the rooms with a view to be big, expensive state rooms. The work takes six months less time than projected, leaving them in the early spring of 2000 with a finished luxury hotel and no customers.

The day when they started taking reservations for that period, heavily discounted because of the last minute availability, happened to be the day my wife and I started calling around western Canada for a place to get married. We got a suite, a wedding on the terrace, a banquet hall and catering at one of the most expensive hotels in Canada for roughly 20% of the usual price.

The moral of the story: even more than century later, management failure and the inability of large, centrally managed firms to capitalise on local knowledge still has repercussions.

Posted by: Scott Martens on June 25, 2003 03:07 AM

Brad - third man hole from the north. Knock five times.

Posted by: Barry on June 25, 2003 03:56 AM

Scott Martens wrote:

"All it has left is a chain of gorgeous historical luxury hotels built along all the main railways in Canada."

I would agree that they are, for the most part, gorgeously situated. On the other hand, they also are, again for the most part, very antiquated and, as you have suggested, badly run. Give me a Four Seasons hotel any day of the week.

That said, if he's not already done so, I would advise our host to go and take a look at the views from the Banff Springs hotel. Not nearly as magnificent as Lake Louise, but pretty darned nice all the same.

On a personal note, one of my great-great uncles, a penniless Jewish refugee from England, who had been apprenticed to a tinsmith in South Africa in the 1880's, subsequently built the first chain of station hotels in that country. Being a hard-headed businessman he made absolutely sure that all his rooms pointed the right way.

Posted by: Pooh on June 25, 2003 03:58 AM

In the 60's at MIT we would take a study break and watch the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show. Some of us even joined the Moosylvania Swamp Rat Patrol complete with a kit and official documents. Membership merely required 25 cents and two empty bags of either Cheese Doodles or Dipsy Doodles.

Posted by: Emmie on June 25, 2003 08:31 AM

Rocky and Bullwinkle aren't Canadians - they come from Frostbite Falls, Minnesota.

Posted by: msw on June 25, 2003 09:56 AM

Dudley Do-Right, Inspector Fenwick, and Little Nell are Canadian.

And Frostbite Falls, MN, does not have either a Moose Street or a Squirrel Street.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on June 25, 2003 10:00 AM

I vaguely remember an R & B related international boundry dispute, with Canada asserting that Frostbite Falls was in the U.S. and the U.S. asserting that it was in Canada. But I may be off on this.

Posted by: Martin on June 25, 2003 10:50 AM

I vaguely remember an R & B related international boundry dispute, with Canada asserting that Frostbite Falls was in the U.S. and the U.S. asserting that it was in Canada. But I may be off on this.

Posted by: Martin on June 25, 2003 10:53 AM

In 1969 or so I was hired to write legislaation for the House Special Subcommittee on Education. (Basically to shepherd through Pat Moynihan's NIE initiative.)

At the time I wore a Dudley Doright watch, and thought nothing of it.

In my first week there I sometimes heard speeches from the House gallery, and Congressman Edith Gree (D. Oregon) gave a tremendously good one one day. A couple of days later I bumped into her in the elevator of the Rayburn House Office Building, so naturally I told her how good I thought her speech had been.

She thanked me for the compliment, and then held up her wrist. "I see we are with the same party," she said.

Her watch was a Bullwinkle.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on June 25, 2003 10:56 AM

But did you sense the presence of friendly spirits? (Nothing up my sleeve...)

Posted by: David on June 25, 2003 11:19 AM

Vot?
Rocky and Bullvinkle NOT to be found at corner of Moose and Sqvirrel??
Obviously ve are victims of Fiendish Plan!!!
Fearless Leader MUST be informed!

Posted by: Jay C. on June 25, 2003 12:05 PM

Justicewise, believe it or not, there was a Squirrel v. Moose legal case here in Portland. Moose was the police chief here (he later became famous in DC during the sniper case). Squirrel was the legal name of a anarcho-environmentalist. He may have adopted the name just to pester Moose more effectively.

I was told years ago that you can't show R&B in Canada because of the ridicule of the RCMP. Urban Legend, I suppose.

Squirrel won, I think. The issue was police surveillance of protestors.

Posted by: zizka on June 25, 2003 03:25 PM

In the next episode,

Prof. DeLong discusses Berkeley educational policy,

or

Wossamotta U?

Posted by: nameless on June 25, 2003 07:06 PM

Check it out:

http://www.digitalbanff.com/banff/banff.html

(Is that one of Boris's agents in the background?)

Posted by: Jim Swanson on June 28, 2003 10:12 AM

Check it out:

http://www.digitalbanff.com/banff/banff.html

(Is that one of Boris's agents in the background?)

Posted by: Jim Swanson on June 28, 2003 10:13 AM
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