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Is it any wonder we don’t get along?

A writer’s mind can be a terrible place. Even if we choose to never write about dark and evil subjects we cannot help but notice them both in real life and the works of others. One thing which has been bothering me a lot lately is how we are forced apart subconsciously as a regular part of our every day lives. This has been happening to us for decades. Some embrace it but most end up fighting over it.

What am I talking about? We can’t watch the same movie or listen to the same album unless we all happen to be on the exact same service or buying from the exact same source.

This post started brewing in my mind while I was helping my brother with planting season. Driving a tractor around the field and listening to a lot of NPR there was a show discussing all of the behind the scenes info on the upcoming 50th Anniversary Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Actually there were quite a few shows discussing it. All of them were making hay of the fact U.S. customers would, for the first time, get the same songs which had been on the U.K. edition. There was much talk about how you could only get those if you found a record shop specializing in imports.

The music industry has been doing this to us for decades. Given the myriad of copyright laws and tech involved big bands which started out in other countries end up releasing different versions of the same album title in different countries. We have even suffered this with domestic bands releasing the same album title on an actual album then 8-track followed by cassette and then CD. Oh come on, how many of you owned an actual album then purchased the cassette for your car only to learn the songs weren’t in the same order. As you get ready to sing along with the next track on the album while driving, you hear a different track. In part this was due to the different time limitations of each media. Then CDs started coming out with “bonus tracks,” remember those? As the music industry tried to steer us toward CD purchases the same album title on other media didn’t include even the same number of songs. Adding insult to injury a good number of artists/record labels would then release some other compilation, like a “live” album which would include several of what had only been “bonus tracks” sparking arguments between casual fans and fanatics about what “album” a track first appeared on.

Movies, videos and television have recently gotten into the game. Back in the 1970s writers and producers would visit the U.K., watch the telly and come back working on a knock off. Some of the knock offs were really good. You might remember that “Three’s Company” was a knock off of the British “Man About the House.” In a twist of irony the knock off ran for 8 years and the original only 3. Ignoring any copyright and ownership issues I was okay with this because things had different casts and titles. While one could claim something was a ripoff they had to admit the thing at least had a different title and cast.

Today it seems like there are 30 different versions of each movie released, even the obscure ones. There will be at least a dozen for different languages, not just subtitled different, but dubbed. Then we have director’s cuts, theater cuts and it appears each rental/streaming service gets a cut followed by the cut actually made available for sale to consumers.

Oh come on, you’ve all seen it. How many times have you watched a movie in a theater or on a pay movie channel and decided to buy a copy of it only to find your copy didn’t have the scenes you remembered or the scenes you really liked felt “different?” You probably wrote it down to memory. This is easy to do if you pulled the movie from the $5 or less clearance bin some years later, but, it’s not the case.

I was writing a review the other day of “The Cement Garden” for One Dollar Content Store, (no, it’s not live yet, building up the content database first) and I stumbled across a review of it from Roger Ebert. His review had me questioning some things I remembered having watched it years before via either the Blockbuster DVD by mail service. I rented it again via CafeDVD. It was a different movie. I don’t know if Blockbuster sent me the U.K. version or CafeDVD did. Most of the pivotal scenes had been heavily edited in this one. Much of the exploration of human darkness had been “sanitized.” I suspect CafeDVD sent me the U.K. (or other foreign) cut because one of the “sanitized” scenes had a notable addition which wasn’t in the cut I first watched. Did the listing in Blockbuster make it clear I was watching a different cut than most of the American market got to see? Not that I recall. Blockbuster is gone now so I cannot even  check. The listing on CafeDVD said “drama, independent, foreign” but they say “foreign, drama, television” about “Downton Abbey” and the ones I rented didn’t have any striking differences from what I saw on PBS.

How can we ever expect to agree on anything when every one of us is being shown something different?

Roland Hughes is the president of Logikal Solutions, a business applications consulting firm specializing in OpenVMS platforms and Qt on Linux. Hughes serves as a lead consultant with over two decades of experience using computers and operating systems. With a degree in Computer Information Systems, the author's experience is focused on systems across a variety of diverse industries including heavy equipment manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, stock exchanges, tax accounting, and hardware value-added resellers, to name a few. Working throughout these industries has strengthened the author's unique skill set and given him a broad perspective on the role and value of technology in industry.

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