A beautiful death

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 31, 2013 – 12:00am

During Holy Week when more than half of the population seems to be going somewhere else, I can’t help but feel the speed of life slow down to a crawl with each passing hour.

In the Christian world, it is officially a time of sadness, suffering and death. I thought I could relate to it easier this year since I will be mostly in the city with no real plans for vacationing anywhere. I will be left here with the debilitating heat and a lot of thinking time on my hands. It might also be a good time to think about death since I have lately been experiencing the demise of distant relatives, friends, colleagues, etc.

I must confess I think of death a lot. I have been doing so for a few years now. Every year that I live, I hear more and more of friends and relatives and people I know dying.

Every time I hear of any death on news radio, or read about it or see it on TV, I am taken aback. I literally pause even if shortly to honor them, whoever they are. I am not oblivious to the fact that death happens, and that it will happen to everyone. I also do not wish to ever become oblivious or blasé to the important fact that each person who dies leaves a family, or a community, maybe some loved ones, and a life like my own spent on trying to make sense of what it all means, among many other deep questions. Every person leaves a mark on the world he/she has helped shape. And the world has shaped him/her as well. And because of this, every passing is a loss.

Death is inevitable. This we know. But what lies after it has been kept a big secret from us if we speak from a rational/scientific point of view. The afterlife is the biggest question with no one single definitive answer that will satisfy everyone. But even outside science, death is engaging us in all ways. It is amazing how the phenomenon of death is mind-boggling from almost all aspects — scientific, physical, social, religious, spiritual, and even legal. It is a big deal — the biggest, perhaps.

My sister in-law Janet Pimentel’s father died in a hospital just a few days ago. He had been ill for some weeks. He died peacefully. My brother Raffy witnessed him go through his progressive weakening, the administering of the Sacrament of the Dying and his ultimate end surrounded by his loved ones. He described it as a beautiful death.

My sister in-law Rosanne’s husband Rick Watson passed on a few weeks ago, too after a long illness. By all accounts, and from her description, Rick also had a beautiful one.

I guess I can also say the same thing for my mother and father in-law when they died. They both died of cancer. My mother in-law died at home while cared for by nurses with the help of her children. My father-in-law left everything in great order when he died. There was nothing vague about where his estate would go. He was a good father and a lawyer. Above all, he prepared himself spiritually to meet his Maker in a manner that was compatible with his faith.

At my age now, I have already heard and seen a quite a few of what people call “beautiful deaths” and I have a greater understanding of it.

What makes a death beautiful?

I think all beautiful deaths have some things in common. Here are some: the one who died had enough time to contemplate his own life. He was able to come to terms with how he lived. He also faced up to his weaknesses and faults, strengths and gifts and was able to own the truth of who he was with unconditional acceptance.

This can imply a lot of things, but in the end it probably means he must have attempted to grapple with all of his issues, especially those involving forgiving himself and others and asking for forgiveness from other people and making peace with his God.

This is definitely not a walk in the park. It may be the hardest thing a person may have to do. By nature, we avoid what is difficult and threatening to the unreal image of who we are, and embrace our own made-up illusions.

One of my wishes is to go quickly, hopefully not dying after a prolonged illness. To be sick for sometime brings great financial burdens for loved ones to settle after you die. It takes away precious time from them too, and causes suffering. The one good thing about it is, one has the time to think, prepare and ponder what one must do to fix things, and purify himself before going.

I want death to come quickly, if I could have my way. But I know I must always be ready for it to happen anytime. I should therefore not get into nor entertain long festering fights. No time for that. No harboring of hatred of others too, and immediately forgiving and not hesitating about asking for forgiveness when needed. I must also learn more and more the life art of appreciating people and things.

I am nowhere near all this, in truth, even if I try to live my days like this. It seems like an ideal. But try; I do. It is clear to me that if I live my life like this — without all the baggage and garbage — it will be a great life that will no doubt prepare me for a beautiful death when and how it happens.

I may not have a long spell of suffering to have the time to figure everything out. That’s okay. Maybe no one can really figure everything out completely anyway. Or maybe the answers and meanings one person gets may be so different that it is not applicable to others. But a life lived with a spiritual practice of contemplation can prepare you somewhat.

A beautiful death does not have to be a drawn-out affair. It only means the person whose condition has been leading to death must have some spiritual, emotional and religious closure. And whatever physical state we are in, it is good to be reminded that we are always closer to death. Hopefully, we will not leave too many unresolved issues that may arise after we die that will still cause great concern to anyone.

The quality of one’s death I believe can largely be dictated by the quality of how one’s life is lived. The more meaningful and consciously purposeful the life lived, the more it will be appreciated and missed. I am not referring to a life lived in a large manner that affects a lot of people. It is not about the social status one enjoyed while alive, but how one lived it within his own context.

Can a death be an ugly one? From the standpoint of the living, the answer has to be “yes.” We hear of it almost daily. But even when death comes to someone and it appears to be senseless and brutal, I am comforted by an abiding faith that a God of unconditional love awaits on the other side. So how can any death, whatever the circumstances, not be beautiful when it is the portal through which the soul will experience its greatest, happiest moment, and that is the reunion with its Creator?

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Capture your great times this summer. Join me in a summer Basic Photo Workshop on Saturday, April 20. Call 0916-8328088 for reservations and queries, or write to jpfotojim@gmail.com.

Personal power: How to use it

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 24, 2013 – 12:00am

Illustration by REY RIVERA

Each and every person on earth has personal power. It is a power that is ours to own, to spend, to invest, to waste, or to give away freely or with conditions. It is up to us what we want to do with it. It goes with being alive.

Every day, we use this power for many things as we go through life and its different activities and aspects. Whether we work or not, study or stay at home, or whatever it is we do, or do not do, we have this power at our disposal.

I want to talk about the power to choose. To me, it is a truly vital power. And we use this all the time even if, mostly, we do so almost unconsciously. We choose what to wear, eat, like, hate, think, dream and do. We choose who and what to listen to. We also choose whom to talk with, what to buy, reject, what to spend time on or engage in, what to support or stand for. The power to choose is probably the aspect of personal power that is most used daily.

Even when we do not have money, or food, or material resources, or lack mobility or access to many things perhaps due to sickness, poverty, or detention for example, we always still have the power to choose. And we always will. Even when we are down to almost nothing in terms of material resources, we can still choose our attitude towards what we are experiencing. And the use of the power of choice can spell all the difference in what we experience in our own lives

Think of Anne Frank. She was a Jewish girl who chose to believe in the beauty of the world even when there seemed to be only ugliness and hate under the Nazis. Think of many other people who have survived the worst of human conditions — survivors of concentration camps, tsunamis and other natural disasters, and horrible crimes, etc. In such situations in the past, there were many who gave up, and understandably so. But the people who survived chose to believe that they would overcome somehow even when everything seemed to indicate otherwise. They all lived to tell their story and inspire others. In these we see the triumphant use of the power of choice.

Every minute of the day, we may not be aware of it but we do use up some of our personal power, and often wastefully. And we unknowingly do so when we worry, fret, feel anxious, or get angry. Each time we invest in an emotion, a thought or entertain a feeling, we do use up power.

Think of personal power as some sort of currency that we invest. Writer and intuitive healer Carolyn Myss likes to talk about “energy investments.” She points out that we often unknowingly invest our present personal energies uselessly, especially when we are stuck in the past and can’t move on. When we are still living out childhood traumas, or when we have issues about forgiveness, we are using up precious energies on investments that do not pay back. They are energy traps, or black holes that suck out our personal power.

Each time we worry over things we have no control over, or fret about problems we can solve but do not do anything about, we are throwing away personal energy and power. When we constantly put ourselves down, or feed our own insecurities, we are not increasing our power at all but basically throwing it away.

There are many things people worry about: traffic, health, money, job security, romance, forgiveness issues, the state of the people they love, etc. There is no end to what we can worry about when you think about it. And yet the only obvious end to it all is to stop worrying about it.

You may complain that I make it sound so easy. I am not being flippant here. And no, it is not easy. It will take practice, and it is a practice of the spiritual kind we will need to do.

If you are not aware of it, most everything we worry about is either coming from a past that we have judged as bad, or a future that we are projecting to be dire. In doing so, we drain all of our power and we begin to run our lives on empty instead of living in the ever-renewed present.

Think about it. The present is perfect. There is nothing wrong with it. It is always fresh and new. It’s as simple as that. To live in the present — that is spiritual practice by itself.

So how can we use personal power without wasting it, and in the process even gain more of it? Is it possible?

Yes, it is.

Each time we choose thoughts, actions, attitudes, and feelings that lead us to greater creativity, openness to life, and acceptance of what shows up, we gain more power. When we do things that truly sustain our spirit, we are increasing our personal power. Every time you use your power to further evolve into something bigger than your present self, you are increasing the power within you. To put it as simply as Joseph Campbell wrote, you gain more personal power when you “follow your bliss.”

These days, the elections and the new Pope are getting everyone excited. These two spheres in life — government and religion — are big concerns in a country like ours. Not so strangely, a lot of people have discovered that these two topics are often best left undiscussed in many situations because they can be polarizing, and understandably so. And they can be power drainers.

Lately, I have been asking myself how much of my personal power I should invest in these two. The answer is, I will most probably still invest a lot in them. They are contentious spheres but they can lead to positive social and personal changes if understood and used properly. Politics is about making peoples’ lives better, while religion is about understanding the deep and true meaning and purpose of why we are here.

But while I invest my powers in these, I also try to develop the spiritual habit of treating them with some lightness. This means I should be open to their truth but not get completely attached to them. My reason for this is less about being skeptical and more about being open, and humble enough to accept I could be wrong.

While they may both present truths and causes to believe in, I must be ready to let them go once I sense they have reached their expiry dates. Things may ring true at one time but may become untrue later. We have seen how people used to think the world was flat only to discover later on that it is round. To hold on to such beliefs as eternal truths in light of new revelations may be toxic.

For something as important as the fate of my spirit, I do not think I should trust any single religion, book, person or belief system completely. Above all, I must trust my own experience of a God that has increasingly become evident to me as I have gotten older. I also know that my understanding of God may not fit anyone else’s experience since this Great Being is unfathomable at best to the human mind. As a guest on Larry King’s show wryly put it, “I belong to the one, true church of which I am the only member.”

As for politics, I may be a liberal democrat but will not go with every cause that presents itself. Choices have to be done with ever-increasing consciousness. I will choose what I will invest my personal power in with great discernment. The world evolves. So must our thoughts, opinions and our commitments.

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Capture you great times this summer. Join me in a summer Basic Photo Workshop this April 20. 2013, Saturday. Call 0916-8328088 for reservations and queries, or write to jpfotojim@gmail.com.

On top of Mt Pulag, you discover what you brought up with you

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 17, 2013 – 12:00am

My wife Lydia was excited and raring to go. I just nodded along when she presented the plans to climb Mt. Pulag with some friends. It seemed like something way off into the future and I was preoccupied at that time with other things. I agreed without really looking at the plans. I just knew we were going to set aside three or four days to do it.

We drove up to Baguio on a Monday to have a day of rest before the climb the next day. Early Tuesday morning at 5 a.m., our group of 18 friends (seven of us senior citizens) met at the Petron station near Pancake House. It was there where we also met our guides from Trail Bound, a mountaineering outfit run by Boboy Francisco who has been climbing peaks since his college days. He is almost 60 years old now and he is still at it.

We rode off in two big jeeps towards Benguet for about an hour and a half. We stopped for a sumptuous breakfast at a Pinkan eatery that served varied choices of delicious home-cooked food — rice, papaitan, squid, eggplant omelet, eggs, bulalo, etc. — in big servings. And all these for less than 100 Pesos per plate including bananas and mangoes.

After breakfast, we proceeded past Ambuklao dam going higher northward. It was not hard to notice that as we went farther away from Baguio, things got more and more rustic. The roads became narrower and rougher until it was down to just one lane. Sometimes the ride got so rough you felt you were being physically pushed and shoved around inside the vehicle.

We stopped again at the DENR office where we got a briefing on how to conduct ourselves during the trek. Mt. Pulag, we were told, was considered a sacred site by the different tribes who live there. We were not to leave any trash. Nor should we behave in a boisterous manner and must be respectful of the customs and culture of the ancestral people who have occupied the place for ages. No picking flowers or any vegetation. No shouting. No drugs. No scandalous behavior. And yes, no sex!

We continued on our ride to the Rangers Station at the base of the mountain. But just before getting there, we made an unplanned stop by a small community where we took photos of kids in a decrepit shack that passed for a pre-school house. We were thankful Teacher Luzviminda allowed us in and even got the kids to sing for us. Out of gratitude, we pledged to send them notebooks, pencils, etc., which the guides said they would bring to them on the trek next week.
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When we finally got to the Rangers Station at the base of the mountain, we had a quick lunch and proceeded to do the three-hour trek to the camp on top. That would be our home for the night even if just for a few hours. We gave all our heavy bags to the tribal women who acted as porters. They would be carrying them for us all the way to the top of the mountain and down to the Rangers Station the next day. At first I was hesitant to have my bag carried since it seemed like “cheating.” It did not take too long (after just 15 minutes of walking up the mountain) so I was so glad I did.

The trek up the Ambangeg path can easily tire you because the air pressure at that altitude is light. It is a three-hour hike on sometimes smooth but mostly rough upward trails that are narrow and even treacherous at times. It is a real test of physical endurance. Often, we had to stop, drink water or just simply collect our breath. We caught ourselves a few times half-jokingly expressing the thought that perhaps this whole Mt. Pulag adventure may have been a mistake for seniors like us who walked more slowly than the rest. But we knew we had to plod on. And we did.

The stunningly breathtaking scenery all throughout compensated for all the hardship. We went through marvelous flora; pine forests that got thicker with more species of trees, moss, and general foliage which became even more lush the higher we went. During the walk, I caught myself amused at the thought that this was really the first time Boboy Garrovillo and I were living up to being a part of a true Hiking Society. It was cold and it seemed to get even colder when we would stop walking. It was better to keep moving.

When we finally got to the camp late afternoon at some 2,500 meters up, we were met with even more biting cold. But it was beautiful up there. Brown undulating hills covered with tall grass stood majestically before our eyes. We all sighed in awe and relief. We were finally there and it was a great feeling. In near total exhaustion, we crept into our tents, unpacked our sleeping bags and just rested. I caught a few winks. I remember everyone dozing off amid the temperature drop.

We were called to dinner at 7 p.m. But not everyone ate. Some were just too exhausted to get out of their tents and just continued sleeping. I had some soup, adobo and rice in the unforgiving chill, eating while standing under a beautiful starry night sky. I figured I had to eat since I would need all the fuel for our trek to the peak very early the next morning

There was a passing cloud on the otherwise clear night that sprayed everyone with a fine mist that further added to the already high humidity. The wet cold on Mt. Pulag can permeate everything. I was happy Lydia had remembered to bring Ziploc bags for cellphones and cameras that we had brought up.

It was especially hard to get around inside a tent and unpack sleeping bags and huge knapsacks, especially since we were so exhausted. The cold, the tight space and the thin air caught us catching our breaths quite often. We went to bed at about 8:30 p.m. I was able to get a few hours sleep. Lydia was cold, cramped and miserable and hardly got any sleep. Soon our alarm rang for our 3 a.m. wake-up call.

Stepping out of a tent on a two-degree Centigrade cold dawn can really wake you up. The icy temperatures penetrated to our bones despite our thick winter jackets. We all soon assembled and with flashlight, knapsack, headlights and walking sticks, we began the final assault to Mt. Pulag’s peak.

If we thought the trek from Rangers station was already tough, hiking in the dark towards the 2,900-meter peak was unbelievably difficult. The trails were mostly very narrow and muddy that we had to walk single file with one foot always ahead of the other. There was hardly any place to even stand with both feet together. On the left side of the trail was mostly a deep dive so one had to avoid falling. I was constantly reminding myself to concentrate. “Casualness produces casualties,” I kept telling myself. In the dark and cold, all this became doubly challenging. Two fellow trekkers lost their balance but fortunately avoided falling off the deep. They stood up and continued walking.

At certain points, we all asked each other what the hell we were doing there when we could be home dry and comfortable. Why did we say yes to this, we thought. We should have done this at age 20. We were 40 years too late. As we silently plodded on amid many rest stops, we mostly just heard our deep breathing carried by the howling wind trailing off into the darkness.

Mountain climbing is not just a physical activity. That’s just one of its many aspects. It will challenge your character and expose you to yourself and to others. If you are a whiner, it will show in a big way and may cause demoralization, not to mention irritation to the group you are with. You may even hate yourself after the ordeal for showing weakness. Luckily I was with a great group of friends. We were all unbelievably pleasant and supportive of each other. We pushed and pulled each other up when we needed to without fuss.

The experience also opens you to spiritual musings in many ways. I certainly thought of my own mortality as we faced this often extreme, physically challenging adventure. One also begins to realize that beyond the limit of what you think you can do, there lies much more strength and power one can harness if you say “yes” to the unknown and unconditionally deal with whatever comes up as it comes up. I felt many epiphanies amid the exhaustion. There we were, unable to go back and left with no choice but to plod forward. Actually, there was one other choice we had to make, and it was this; we could be grumpy and hate all this or rise up to the challenge with optimism and a sense of power.

We just had to persevere and continue. We soon discovered it was wise to just concentrate on every step we needed to do. To keep asking how much further we needed to climb was demoralizing. So we just continued walking.

And before we knew it, there we were!

Standing on Peak 3 overlooking God’s creation is quite an indelible experience. We were quiet and bone tired but our spirits were full and soaring. We did it! Yes, we certainly did it! And at our age! We felt giddy and triumphant. We were all smiles as we enjoyed the sunrise and the unspeakably tantalizing scenery that was unfolding with the dawn. All this as we sipped and enjoyed some coffee with giddy delight!

Buoyed by our achievement, we went back to camp with a seemingly light hop, skip and bounce. We then had breakfast, packed our things and soon headed down for the three-hour walk back to the Rangers’ Station.

Personally, this part of the trek was the most difficult. My left knee began to hurt quite badly with every step down the path. Soon it was excruciatingly painful. Luckily, long-time friends Tato Garcia had brought a rubber knee wrap and Betta Dans had a painkiller that helped me negotiate the path all the way down to the Station.

Climbing Mt. Pulag was life changing. It affected us on many levels and we got more than what we bargained for. We all felt we had conquered ourselves. But more than that, we also felt we discovered so much of the inner strength we did not know we had. “The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring there,” as author Robert Pirsig put so aptly. It was quite a self-discovery!

I highly recommend it even just for the adventure and challenge. But at the same time, I do so with much hesitation and reservation. Mt. Pulag, after all, is not your usual picnic place. It is a sacred, almost inaccessible sanctuary and the tribal people feel it should remain this way. No unwelcome “development,” please, and no to big throngs of crass tourists and consumers.

It would be tragic if one day, we see condos, malls or food chains littering the path to one of God’s great hangouts. I do hope there are enough people who care and who can protect it from property developers! The way to kill paradise is to pave the path to it.

Just shut up and write

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 10, 2013 – 12:00am

Illustration by REY RIVERA

When I am trying to find something to write, I often catch myself staring at the blank screen while my mind actively seeks out a topic. It goes through an array of compiled and unarranged, catalogued and unrecognized, complete and incomplete ideas, random and raw and un-analyzed thoughts that it can seize and make a big deal of. Sometimes, my mind sorts through all these undefined sparks of inspiration in a calm way, and decides to pick one of them for an article. Then I expand it with words.

That’s when writing is easy.

At other times, my mind is not calm at all. It is racing nervously as it looks at the clock and the deadline of submission while coming close to panic. It is like a car in a tight spot but with a very impatient driver. It bumps into everything everywhere and in so doing causes more panic and raises tension. I feel pressured, and grouchy, and sometimes even wonder why I commit to writing assignments in the first place. It only stops when I catch myself. But often, the “self-catching” is a temporary reprieve and the staring at the blank screen resumes together with the restlessness after awhile.

At times like these, my mind is screaming, “What the f*** can I possibly write about that I haven’t touched on in the past?” And then the great critic that lives inside my head appears, menacingly reminding me of my limitations as a writer and even as a human being. This makes me feel even more harassed and pressured to produce something monumental, not unlike the girl in Rumpelstiltskin who must spin gold overnight for submission by morning.

To say it is a frustrating exercise is an understatement. It is too mild a description that one sounds like he is almost in denial of the true distress he is feeling. It is downright unnerving and upsetting when nothing crystallizes and no writing happens. The elusive subject is like keys to a maleta one may have misplaced, or a name of a person remembered and very present yet elusive at the tip of one’s tongue.

But in between the mental rants, the mind also hears its own intuition whispering amid the din of distress saying, “The topic you want is not far away. It is right there under your nose.” Even you know it is there. You just have to wait for it to appear. Or more accurately, you just have to really look.

Sooner or later, you realize that one needs to simply surrender, calm down and take stock of one’s self. One needs a quieting, a calming of the mind, an acknowledging of that field of potential that is there, a bright abundant flower garden waiting for you to go and pick out a few roses. The field where everything including creativity arises, where there is lots of breathing space and time to do things does exist. You know it does because you have seen it a few times before.

If you can get to this state of calm, then you can begin to look at yourself and notice where the flow of the mind’s ocean is going and follow with it with great interest.

And where it goes is what one must write about.

To me, breaking out of writer’s block will always be unsuccessful when one tries too hard. One must not try. But then not trying is also dangerous so one must try, I guess. I know it sounds contradictory. In short, one must try and not try at the same time. It’s a paradox. In the end, one must not try to write the masterpiece but must simply just write. To obsess on writing that “great work” in the middle of an episode of writer’s block is to almost guarantee writing won’t happen. Just write. Without conditions. That is the Zen of writing.

Shakespeare and almost all prolific writers were successful because they went with the flow, not resisted it. They simply went with it wherever it wanted to go. But before they were able to simply go with the flow, they must have suffered through countless bouts of frustration also. Even while they were already holding the magic wand of creativity in their hands, there must have been times when they still could not get it to work.

One learns to write in many ways. One way is to read a lot of good writers and marinate in their different styles, methods, substance and magic. You can emulate them. Or one can simply look for inspiration and be inspired. A nice beach, a beautiful house, a lonely cottage on some mountain, a quiet space to think can help a lot. But there are many other ways. Ask writers and they all have their homemade recipes to entice the muse to free them from writer’s block and inspire them.

Whatever way you choose to do ultimately does not matter. If it works, do it. But accept that the thing that writers do is write. No ifs, and/ or buts about that. And sometimes writers simply must unconditionally do the act of writing. One must show up no matter what shape or form one is in. If the muse shows up as well, then that is well and good. If she does not, then a writer must make do. Whatever and however you write is the state of your art at the moment. Accept that. Don’t compete with what you’ve done before. Sometimes you are great, sometimes just so-so. And sometimes, you may even be bad. Just show up just the same.

But how does one do it without inspiration? How can one write without the nice house, or the muse?

As someone who has written columns, books and songs, I have learned that the switches and levers of creativity are all inside of me. And they are simple to operate, really. Show up unconditionally and do what a writer does. That’s it. It can’t be any simpler. Too many conditions and the creative machine jams and locks.

But I also know that the hardest thing to be in this complicated world is to be simple; so in the end, it is not that simple.

So the task is to work at being simple. But if you must work at it, then it must be somewhat hard, and therefore not easy and as simple as simplicity is supposed to be.


Let me end this by leaving you with just one piece of advice then.

Just shut up and write.

Samsung wows with its amazing cutting-edge technology

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 3, 2013 – 12:00am

They were at it again.

I am talking about the Samsung guys who invited both traditional and social media practitioners to the unveiling of their new products for 2013. Samsung, the mega tech company which had a net growth of 31 percent last year of which 61 percent was in Southeast Asia made sure that they had dazzling products to show.

Samsung did not disappoint. As I write this, I am in my hotel room in Jakarta and down at the ballroom of the Hotel Mulia is the amazing display of cutting-edge technology applied on Samsung’s newest aircons, kitchen ranges, refs, vacuum cleaners, cameras, printers, phones, tablets, laptops, speaker systems, and televisions.

Samsung SEA Forum 2013

This ULTRA 13 inch laptop runs on Windows 8 and it has touchscreen!

There are air-conditioners that you can control via Wi-Fi for those who want their rooms cool by the time they get home, washing machines that do not get clothes tangled, speakers that are turned on and controlled via NFC, very modern refs with new, cutting-edge features, etc. The Series 7 Chronos and ultra laptops are dazzlingly powerful, sleek, super fast, versatile, multifunctional and have batteries that last hours more than their competitors

The innovation, creativity and the “wow” factor Samsung products are getting recognized for were clearly evident. I particularly was impressed with the Ultra HD and the OLED TV (both Smart televisions), the Galaxy Note 8 and the NX300 Camera.

The 85-inch UHD is the biggest, smartest TV of them all. Nothing comes close to it right now.

The Smart Ultra HD television in all of its 85-inch screen glory undeniably hogged a big part of the show. The clarity of the images on screen are the clearest I have even seen on any screen bar none! That’s probably because the Ultra HD has four times more pixels than the full HD that is the standard today. It is also ultra thin and its speakers are inconspicuously embedded on the frame that supports the television.

And all Samsung Smart TVs are now capable of being upgraded to the latest specs via a gadget called the “Evolution Kit,” which you can attach to the back of the TV. This means that if you bought a 2012 Smart TV, you can easily enjoy the features of the latest 2013 model, and get a new pack every year for the latest upgrades.

It is important to note that soon enough, all TV broadcasts will be going digital. And the Samsung Smart TV you already own now will be the only television sets that can be upgraded to receive the new signals via the Evolution Kit. This is a big advantage since you most likely may not have to buy a new TV to enjoy clear digital broadcasts.

This tiny gadget can upgrade your 2012 Smart TV to the latest model with all its apps, goodies and features.

The main feature of the OLED TV is one of the most innovative technological function I have seen in a television since its dawning. Its most impressive feature is this: its beautiful LED screen can show two video sources at the same time. No, I am not talking about the usual split screen that other TVs do. This is way better! By wearing a pair of glasses with ear speakers, two people can watch and listen to two separate channels of their choice, privately. Imagine your wife watching Discovery channel on the usual 2D broadcast while you are watching a Blue-ray disc of the latest Oscar-winning film in 3D at the same time with no image or sound leak. The execution is flawless. When you actually see how it works, you will really want one.

This ‘bridge’ gadget looks and feels just right. A real challenge to the Ipad Mini but with much more features.

Enter the Samsung Galaxy Note 8! This new gadget is clearly riding on the success of the Note 1, 2 and the 10.1 tab. I am quite familiar with the whole line since I have all of those devices. When I heard that they were presenting a Note 8, I must confess I initially felt it was overkill until I actually held and played with it.

The Note 8 is a “bridge” gadget between a full-size tab and the Note 2. It has an 8-inch screen and the OS is the latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The size and feel to this user (to borrow Goldilock’s comments upon trying Baby Bear’s bed, chair and porridge) is, “This one is just right.” If you’ve had a Note before, it will feel comfortable to use with its similar apps and S-Pen. While it is obviously being positioned against the Mac iPad Mini, Samsung suggests other uses to also include a diary and e-reader among other things. The price? No one knows as of now. But going by the way Samsung prices its products, it will probably be close to the Mini iPad even if it has a lot more features.

A big surprise of the forum was the Samsung NX300 camera. It’s a mirrorless camera that allows a 3D lens attachment for both still photos and video. The results are quite impressive, and awesome, even if you will need a 3D capable TV to appreciate it. I am speculating that the NX300 camera can make 3D more accessible to people and can even really popularize 3D photography.

Samsung is positioning itself among the high end cameras with this beauty.

And if that were not impressive enough, I was surprised and pleased to discover that the NX300 has a number of lenses from fixed ones to zooms. This camera has a shutter speed of up to 1/6000th of a second, and ISO settings from 100 to 25,600. Throw in a movable back monitor where you can angle your view up and down. It is important to note that all these features can be found among the big players.

Samsung has recently embarked on going beyond the point-and-shoot camera and developing more advanced consumer cameras lately and its efforts are beginning to pay off. Its recent launch of the popular Galaxy Camera is testimony to this. The NX300 is a step in the right direction in bringing Samsung to the arena of big contenders for serious photo enthusiasts to consider.

There were other wows in the forum like refs with sparkling water and crushed ice dispensers, TVs that could mirror your gadget’s screen, and a lot more.

The only thing missing in the forum was the introduction of the much-awaited S4 phone which almost everyone in the world, especially the guys at Cupertino, have been anticipating.

But that is another story about to happen soon. They’ve got plenty more surprises up their sleeves!