Toshiba 13.3" Chromebook 2 (Refurbished)

  • Pro: great-looking 1920x1080 screen, 9-hour battery life, 16GB SSD has no moving parts, weighs less than 3 pounds, can do anything you can do in a browser or through apps, that price
  • Con: can’t edit production-quality video, play resource-intensive PC games, or store a huge pirated media collection
  • Weigh those yourself, but thousands of you have found the Pro side pretty convincing
  • Model: CB35-B3340 (we’ve gone over this one plenty: too many letters, too many numbers, not enough effort)
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Scopitone Party: The Original Music Videos

Hey, Meh writer @JasonToon here. You guys have seen (and thousands of you have bought) this Toshiba Chromebook before. So you know all about how it’s a lightweight - and, when we sell it, low-cost - way to do almost everything you do with a bulkier, more expensive computer. Browse the web. Check your email. Work in cloud-based apps like Google Drive. And stream video.

That last one got me thinking. Even though the music clips in our weekend playlists are almost always from YouTube, I’ve never really done one where the video was just as important as the music. So this week, to emphasize that you can use your Toshiba Chromebook to watch more than just what Netflix and Amazon say you can watch, we’re having a “Scopitone Party” with the likes of Betty Clair:

Scopitones were early video jukeboxes, first popular in France in the 1960s. A 16mm film was rear-projected on a screen above the machine to go along with the music. I’m not sure how many cafe patrons ever paid to crowd around a dimly-lit, blurry three-minute movie. But hundreds and hundreds of Scopitone clips were produced, so somebody was presumably watching them. This French, Gallic art form doesn’t get any more French or Gallic than in this Parisian clip by Francoise Hardy , “Tous les Garcons”:

Unless it’s in this clip by the singer actually named France Gall, the fantastic “Laisse Tomber les Filles”:

As with the early music videos of the '80s, many Scopitones were just about showing fans what a singer or group looked like, in the days when record jackets were often the only look you’d ever get. The best of these at least put the artists in an interesting settting. The Exciters took a trip to the zoo to sing their classic “Tell Him” to a bear, some lions, and a peacock:

Primeval English rocker Vince Taylor inspired David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character, and his song “Brand New Cadillac” was covered by the Clash. Here’s his version of Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock”, with the leather-clad Taylor and band lounging on motorcycles:

Burlesque-inspired cheesecake was always a big part of Scopitones, with some clips consisting of little more than midriff close-ups of gyrating go-go girls. The better ones put the eye candy in really weird wrappers. Dig the crazy mixed-up scene happening on Lou Rawls’ “St. Louis Blues”:

April Stevens & Nino Tempo look like a middle-class suburban couple who’ve stumbled into some kind of kabuki bacchanal in the clip for their version of “Land of 1,000 Dances”:

Speaking of ethnic stereotypes, frequent Frank Sinatra companion Joi Lansing gets trapped in a “Web of Love” in this sublime slab of jungle kitsch:

Dig the manic frugging in this clip for “Tijuana Taxi” by Herb Albert & the Tijuana Brass. I doubt you’ll see this on the streets of the real Tijuana, but in its way, it’s as insane as anything you’ll find in the city itself:

Also like early MTV videos, sometimes all a Scopitone needed was one visual joke and a few costume changes. Frank Alamo’s “Allo Maillot 38-37” is built entirely on the zany idea what if you could talk on the phone anywhere you went?:

Timi Yuro’s “If” takes its visual cues from the lyrics, with Timi as a desert princess, sitting on the moon, walking among the world’s monuments, etc.:

From the other end of the spectrum is Della Reese’s “If I Never Get To Heaven”, with one soundstage, a few dancers, and some tasteful lighting. Oh, and then some giant lollipops and some weird hanging lamps, because it is a Scopitone, after all:

As the ‘60s got more serious, the Scopitones formula didn’t age well. By decade’s end, the bright, high-energy fun of clips like Claudine Coppin’s "St. Trop’ Express" was out:

And the self-conscious, unsmiling artiness of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was in:

The last Scopitone clips were made in 1978, but the whole thing was effectively over by 1970. Like so many other lost treasures of midcentury pop culture, it wouldn’t be until the 1990s that a small but growing audience of archival hipsters would rediscover Scopitones.

Now, of course, thanks to the Internet, nothing is lost, and there are hundreds more Scopitones on YouTube. It’s just one of countless ways your little Toshiba Chromebook can be more than just a useful little laptop: it’s a window into a wonderland of weird.

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