From The Observer News (

Observing The Web
Observing The Web
By Mitch Traphagen
Feb 15, 2007, 19:26

Anna Nicole Smith and anti-American videos are, apparently, hot subjects on the Web this week.  Neither of which I plan to discuss beyond a few words.

In terms of Smith – despite fortune and fame it appears to me she had a less than idyllic life.  Now she’s dead.  Let’s just let the poor girl rest in peace.  

As for the anti-American videos – what was once the domain of frequently mentioned but never revealed extremist websites has gone mainstream:  Apparently you can now see American soldiers getting killed on video sharing sites such as YouTube. To be honest, I haven’t looked, have no desire to look and will pass on providing any links here.

Instead of what is hot at the moment, let’s shift to a few things that have been out there for a while but still have the ability to reach out and grab you.

As a male photographer, I frequently tell people that virtually any woman is beautiful regardless of age or size.  As with all people, attitude is often what creates the nebulous definition of beauty.  Except for those completely soured on all aspects of life, a camera used correctly has the ability to capture the beauty in the eyes and mind and translate that to the image.  As a result, beauty is clearly within the reach of everyone.

Society in general, however, seems to take a different view.  A woman’s beauty is often defined much more specifically in terms of age (youth) and shape (very slim).  But is that definition reality?  For most of us, it clearly is not.

A Web video by Dove and Unilever Canada, Inc. provides a behind the scenes look at how society’s image of beauty is created.  It is shocking, frightening and strangely humorous all at the same time.  The Dove website also contains a large quantity of information about the Campaign For Real Beauty and self-esteem for young girls.  This site is worth a look for everyone – but particularly so if you have a young daughter.

And while we’re on a serious subject, I’d like to throw in something incredibly poignant.  Much has already been written about PostSecret – a Website through which people can share their own personal secrets – in fact, it has even spawned a book entitled, The Secret Lives of Men and Women.  

Through Post Secret, people are invited to share their most personal secrets via handmade postcards.  The cards, minus any identifying information, are displayed on the Website.  The results are often sad, sometimes funny, occasionally frightening but almost always extremely touching. 

Find out what your fellow humans are going through in life.  In doing so, you may discover that you are not really alone.

TECO provides a live, 24 hour webcam at the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach. Obviously, however, at night there is not much to see. Image from
And now we’ll finish with something fun and cool – best of all, it’s local.  They say that people who live in Paris never visit the Eiffel Tower and New Yorkers never go to the top of the Empire State Building.  In other words, it is sometimes difficult to think of your own backyard as a vacation wonderland.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the same stuff that thousands of tourists enjoy.  A case in point is a Webcam provided by the Tampa Electric Company at the Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach.  The camera is live and available day or night (although “night” really does look like your backyard – except in the dark).  The site even offers you the chance to control the camera – you can look up and down and all around to see floating humps in the water – the telltale signature of manatees.  

If you are extremely lazy and don’t feel up to walking over to your window, you can even catch a live sunset via the camera.

As an added bonus, you can also grab a frame and email it as an electronic greeting card to your friends in colder regions of the country.  Don’t forget to tell them how much you’re enjoying a vacation in your own backyard.  And you could close with the words of singer Jimmy Buffett who said, “The weather is here, wish you were beautiful”.

On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t say that.

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