Thursday, August 10, 2006

All in a Day's Work

In the past few weeks, I have received emails and Skype calls from friends all over the world and yesterday, even my husband asked me, between bites of Kari Ayam (Malaysian Curry Chicken), the same question: "Did you read Clarín (a major Argentine newspaper) on Monday? A Chinese woman in Hong Kong paid US$18 million to her Italian dance teacher for one year's dance lessons?" Evidently, this piece of local news on the tiny island of Hong Kong has gone global.
No, it is not a typo; 18 millions in greenback which works out to almost US$50,000 per day! The dance teacher received half of this contractual amount, US$9 million, and promptly bought himself a top of the range Ferrari.
Then one day, while the teacher and pupil were dancing at some upscale dinner dance parlour frequented by other equally rich ballroom dancing aficionados, he dared to call this svelte and youthful looking lady a "fat cow". Hell has no fury for a woman scorned, especially one disgraced in front of her competitive friends! They parted ways as teacher and pupil, law suit and counter law suit thus followed. The latest is the Italian dance teacher suing for a breach of contract and payment of the remaining US$9 million. The wealthy pupil is claiming assault, etc.
The lady at the epicentre of this infamous scandal is the head of private banking at HSBC in Asia. The business of a private banker is to look after investments and other financial interests of their high net worth clients for a fee. Often, these private bankers are independently wealthy with their own family fortunes. Trust me; it is not that easy to cultivate the highest level of confidence and patronage from the mega-rich if one is just Joe Average. Monica, this lady, is no exception. She was born into an extremely wealthy Chinese family in Hong Kong; educated in an elitist private school and later an Ivy League university in the U.S. This not unattractive lady was widowed very young by her equally wealthy French husband so she devoted her life to building an illustrious career in finance.
Most people are outraged by the sum involved in her pursuit of what is commonly seen as a hobby, and a frivolous one at that. However, how is this lady different from the multi-millionaires who indulge in big boy toys like yachts, private jets; or those who prefer to collect castles all over Europe?
Grotesque amounts of disposable cash being lavished by individuals on themselves just show how unbalanced our society has become.
Some of the wealthy have "created" wealth; they have capitalised on an original idea, executed it well and amassed a fortune. In the process of doing so, they have created employments and at times, they have even generated wealth and advancement for society. Hats off to these entrepreneurs; they deserve their harvest from seeds they have sown. Ironically, many of these exceptional individuals choose to spend they money on philanthropic pursuits.
What is objectionable though, are those individuals who benefit disproportionately just by being at the right spot in the wealth creation chain such as brokers, bankers and lawyers. A fund raising exercise in the capital markets usually yield up to 2.5% of the transaction amount in fees. So if someone is trying to raise US$200 million in, say the stock market, fees to the bankers alone could be a cool US$5 million. In a vibrant market, there might be a number of deals rolling for these bankers at the same time. And the toughest part of the job is fighting off competitions to these easy millions.
If we turn to look at how much our society reward teachers and scientists who are employed to safeguard, nurture and advance the future of mankind, do we not catch a glimpse of what is going wrong in our world? No wonder very few gifted young people would now devote their talents to the pursuit of knowledge for its sake. In this current get rich quick culture, would we ever have another Einstein?
In a society where we can buy almost anything with money, we can forget the simple pleasures, like fresh bread coming out of the oven...
Herbed Focaccia:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking sheet
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
2 teaspoons coarse salt rough sea salt, for sprinkling
Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 6 tablespoons warm water, the sugar, and yeast. Stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add oil, 1 cup warm water, thyme, and 2 teaspoons rosemary; stir to combine. Add flour and salt, and mix on low speed until all the flour is incorporated into dough, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and continue mixing until a very sticky dough forms, cleaning the dough hook 2 or 3 times, (it will not completely come up from the bottom of the bowl), about 3 minutes.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough with lightly floured hands until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes. Place dough on prepared baking sheet, turning to coat with oil. Cover lightly with plastic wrap; transfer to a warm place, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 220°C with rack in the center of the oven. When dough has doubled in size, press out to fill pan. Let dough rest, covered with plastic wrap, for 10 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary and sea salt. Bake until top is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped, about 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home