By Caroline Baum
Bloomberg News Columnist

The world is beset by crises, from an earthquake and tsunami in Japan to revolution and repression in the Middle East. For one small segment of the population, however, it's party time.

The rich are spending again; the more conspicuous the consumption, the better. Gone are the exhortations to bankers in the dark days of 2008 and 2009 to temper extravagant behavior, act more like an everyman. Shun the limo in favor of a yellow cab, and tone down the annual Christmas bash.

Millionaires, nay billionaires, are back with a vengeance. Many of the newly wealthy are Asian.

I'm not sure what it all means exactly. The rich always have money to spend, in good times and bad. While their relative advantage is greater when low- and middle-income families are struggling, today's robber barons want to appear sympathetic to the plight of the working class.

The fact that flamboyant spending is making a comeback may be a sign that, Japan's human tragedy notwithstanding, the worst is over for the global economy.

Here are a few examples of what the wealthy are spending money on these days:

No. 1. Dog-Eat-Dog or Dog-Eat-Abalone?

Last week, a Chinese coal baron paid a record $1.5 million for an 11-month old red Tibetan mastiff named Big Splash, or Hong Dong in Chinese.

Tibetans believe mastiffs have the souls of departed monks and nuns who didn't qualify for entry into heaven or reincarnation.

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