15 February 2006
Once a year, around end January, it seems as if those very important world leaders and very well-paid corporate
executives have very little to do. Assembling at the Swiss ski resort of Davos they go for seasonal gimmicks. Last year
it was the $2.50 malaria net. This year it was the $100 laptop.
Admittedly, no man in his right mind would give the cold shoulder to Angelina Jolie. If her eyes widened and her
lips gasped in that fireplace lit room while listening to an enterprising young operator, who is Bill Gates to
complain? It is only that the Microsoft Guru happens to know a thing or two about -- laptops. And while the delicious
Ms. Jolie will soon be returning to the welcoming arms of the equally dashing Brad Pitt, Mr. Gates will remain with us
every click of a window. It also happens that he, that is the unfazed Mr. Gates, thinks that the $100 laptop isn't
practical for deprived Third World children. Too many batteries. Too expensive software. Instead, a $25 cellular
phone will do it.
Actually, you don't have to take sides. Except for the President of Tanzania, who last year was the happily surprised
recipient of the malaria net funds, no money changes hands. Indeed, no hands are raised, except to intervene -- particularly
if a Gweneth Paltrow look-alike is looking with intense interest. Then it's an open field. The old order changeth,
yielding place to new; new world order vs. status quo ante; could analysis be worthwhile? Was the theatre really
dead? You'd rather be a hammer than a nail? Anything to display creative thinking out of the box.
Again, it doesn't really matter how you argue. It is who you meet. More important, it is WHERE you meet. If you were
staying at downtown Davos, forget it. If you were "biletted" at a nearby village, don't even try. Meeting rooms are
alright if you want to push your visiting card or shake a few key hands. Two venues only matter. The "principals only"
lobby of the exclusive Hof. And the skiing competition. The lobby could be negotiated with a hurried confident
approach. The company of a stunning woman clad in a layered suede/cashmere "apres ski" outfit will certainly help. It
is the skiing piste that is most exclusive. Competitive European executives make a point of checking every single
person around to avoid being upstaged by a younger intruder.
The most snobbish comment this year was to complain that Davos has become too crowded with too much show. The
brilliant innovator, creator and organizer Dr. Claus Schwab amenably goes along promising tighter circuits in future
meetings. For some reason, perhaps to prove the point, Ms. Sharon Stone was not visible this year. Perhaps she is busy
working on an alternative to the $100 laptop.