The 4th Floor's Podcast

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Who Will Punish The Punisher?

In the past week Netflix has brought to the apartment two Punisher movies, both of which are from the past decade, so we can avoid the Dolph Lundgren fiasco of 1989. Fans of Batman and The Punisher are set up for an inevitable race to comparison, as Frank Castle loses his entire family to a mob execution and Bruce Wayne to an unknown mugger. The two characters both decide that justice must be served, and yet their personal methods of vigilantism vary wildly. Batman would rather use fear to terrorize criminals, and believes in non lethal means to an end. Frank Castle, on the other hand, is a rather violent guy, and stealth plays a part, but his ends usually leave behind a pile of bodies.

At this point I must note I know very little about The Punisher, and my "history" with Batman is tied mostly to graphic novels and the movies. The comparison has to be made though, and in Punisher: Warzone The franchises meet an interesting crossroads. Warzone revolves around The Punisher and his war with Billy Russoti, who would later become disfigured in a recycling plant, and become Jigsaw. As Jigsaw, the mob boss, then releases his brother Looney Bin Jim (he prefers James) from a psychward, and to get back at Castle organizes all the criminal gangs in the city in a united cause. Sound familiar? It should, but one quick note: Punisher: Warzone released December 5, 2008. (This is important for timeline consideration.)

On July 18, 2008 The Dark Knight releases, and in which The Joker (another J name) unites the criminal underworld against Batman. The Joker doesn't release a brother from a psych hospital, but Arkham Asylum is an important location in this universe. In the 1989 Batman movie, the Joker is created after Batman intervenes in a chemical plant theft being done by mafia hitman, Jack Napier. Napier is thrown into a pit of chemicals and becomes The Joker. Remember also in 1989, the Dolph Lundgren fiasco occurs with the Punisher franchise. So what do we have, two violent sociopaths, two similar origin stories, and two similar motives.

The differences however are what separate the two vigilantes, and ultimately these differences are key to determining what camp you side with. The Punisher outside of Jigsaw and occasionally the Kingpin has no real set of recurring villains, and while this is due to the near homicidal tendencies of Frank Castle, it detracts from the characters ability to keep a constant storyline and dooms him to a supporting character. With Batman and his villainous psychopaths there is also the possibility to move the series into new directions, while at the same time involving a villain that is recognizable and has depth.

On the other hand The Punisher is a way more gritty hero in his portrayal in mainstream media, and mainstream media is the key two words. Batman is at a slight disadvantage here from a character standpoint. His lack of lethal methods creates a dynamic set of encounters between him and The Joker, but that conflict normally plays out fairly similarly. The Joker is often left questioning Batman on his decision for not killing him, and will hold nothing back to force the Dark Knight's hand. The Joker has killed Robin after Robin, paralyzed Jim Gordon's niece and in general has pushed Batman to his limits. Yet the desire for Batman to not stoop to a criminal's level prevents him from giving in to Joker's desire, and ultimately thwarts both Joker's plot and his attempt to "destroy" Batman. These encounters in main stream media play out in fairly high stakes display, but often lack the completely violent and disturbing nature of the Joker himself. Nolan had improved that situation as The Dark Knight pushes the limits on what Joker will do to force Batman into action, but for the most part the Joker in TV shows and previous movies was portrayed as more of a maniacal clown with little of the psychopath to be found.

The main stream effect comes from Batman's own popularity and the marketing that DC and Warner Bros has created. Avid readers of graphic novels and the comic series will find a much different and darker Joker, and find themselves facing a different set of conflict. In the case of Batman, it is often the villain that makes him the character that he has become. In the case of the Punisher since there are virtually no recurring villains, the character simply becomes a vigilante. One that is conflicted about the act of killing, and ultimately forced down this path because of an extensive military background, but a vigilante none the less and nothing more. There is hardly any internal conflict that is created by his actions, other than the act of killing, and there is hardly a reason to keep driving that theme home from a series stand point.

The two franchises follow an unsettling amount of comparison, and in the rare DC Marvel Crossover, have teamed up for battle. Ultimately at the end of the day, I would love to stand behind the Vigilante who handles crime families that constantly go unpunished, and can constantly escape punishment from the law, but DC has found a formula for success with Batman. Bruce Wayne's story deepens from a lack of lethal force, and at the same time establishes enough external conflict that can keep a series running. I would love to see more from The Punisher, but without proper villains to support his story, at the end of the day Batman remains a better character overall.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Episode 27: The Only 4th Floor


Welcome to another splendiferous episode of The 4th Floor.  We carry over the political opinion pieces from last episode, and discuss how infrastructure spending could help carry the USA out of this recession.  We also discuss Herman Cain, and how his sex scandals have left the GOP presidential nomination race wide open.

Our Charity of the Month is Movember and ask that you help by donating to men's prostate cancer.  Our Movie of the Week is Clerks from Kevin Smith.

This week we review Zack and Miri Make a Porno to round out our Kevin Smith Movie of The Week theme, and also have our Top Ten Extravaganza for who we would like to see Work on the Next Batman movie.

Our NFL Discussion rounds out the show.  We open with Final Fantasy VII Aire Tam Break by Fishy from Break with Paper Boy With Lyrics from Brental Floss and End with AVALANCHE from MegaRan.

Monday, June 27, 2011

An Atheist/Agnostic view of the Bible

Religion since it's inception, has been the one constant factor in the lives of human beings.  Technology, countries, and governments come a go, but we still retain our view of religion as the most important factor in our lives.  For some the Bible is an absolute truth, the word of God, given to man through the chosen writers. Others view it as a work of fiction. Yet either way you choose to look at the Bible, you should always remember one thing.  That is that the Bible, is a fantastic resource for everyone on ways to live their life for the betterment of themselves and others.

A recent peek over at the Gameinformer Online forums, stirred this blog.  The conversation between two users offered a glance at the misconceptions of the Bible, as well as hypocrisy by those who follow the book as God's word.  An argument broke about between atheists and Christians, and in the end I was just disgusted.  I understand each sides' arguments, I even understand the desire to want to establish your belief as right, but whatever happened to "love thy neighbor." Which brings me to this.  

If you take the religious implications of the Bible away from the conversation, you are left with a fantastic book.  A book that ultimately tells a great story of how one Man learned to love Humanity over himself, and as such gave the only thing he could offer, his life.  That is the story of the Bible if you strictly take away all religious implications.  And that is ultimately the point, the Bible is book that all should study.  It provides a great guideline for many different everyday situations, as well as a look into what can happen through self sacrifice, appreciation, and respect.

The stories all provide a moral at the end that teaches what is an appropriate way to treat others.  Love thy neighbor is only one of these.  Loving your neighbor consists of more than tolerance.  Love involves respect, love involves compassion, and love includes involvement in a person's life to help them.  I've chosen to be agnostic, not because I didn't believe in the teaching of the Bible, I became an agnostic because I find religions to be so concerned about being right, instead of actually respecting other religions.  Religions are pushy, religion is just a collection of people who believe in the same thing, and I don't necessarily think any one religion has it right.

I feel each religion has a different thing to offer to each other.  Whether it's the devotion of time and sacrifice of Islam, or the traditions of Judaism. Each religion brings a separate piece of the puzzle to the table, and through respect, and love for our neighbors, we will find a great truth.  But we can't do that if we don't first learn to respect each other.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Joker and the Power of Characters in Fiction

The world of literature, whether in comic or pure written form, is perhaps one of the strongest forms of media in existence.  While movies, video games, and television shows can bring images to life.  A well written work of literature can create for the reader a world so completely surreal and yet real at the same time.  Words are only part of the solution though, for any work of fiction to be successful, you need characters.  At this point in time, nearly every conflict has been told and portrayed through all the various views and opinions you can give, yet when you add a powerful character to the mix, you have magic.

In comics there is probably no greater villain than The Joker, he perfectly encompasses everything that Batman has fought to secure in Gotham.  He is the pure embodiment of chaos and disorder, and yet at the same remains shrouded in mystery.  The reader knows everything they need to know about this infamous character, and yet they still want more.  There is a magnetism to him that draws the reader into his psychosis, and in some cases his character becomes real.

While it's been awhile since Heath Ledger's tragic death after working on The Dark Knight, I think it's chilling to point out that Jack Nicholson himself claims to have warned Ledger about the role.  Nicholson felt that the role is what eventually pushed Ledger over the edge.  Citing his time as the villain in the 1989 adaptation of the series.  A character this powerful, where being pulled into his psyche becomes part of your day to day life, has apparent impact.

These characters are rare however, but their power draws from the writing behind them.  With another Batman series waiting in the wings for Nolan to put a close on take on Batman, it's only a matter of time before another person is cast into the shoes of Batman's greatest villain.  The question will surely become if the actor is capable of handling such a role, however my question is whether they will succumb to the character themselves?  If another person who plays the Joker winds up deceased shortly before the film's release, we could potentially see a new cursed role.  

A character this powerful comes from fantastic writing, and from frightening portrayals, and when they reach this level they garner a life of their own.  It truly is a privilege to have characters like The Joker exist in our time.  Other characters similar in power exist, but I'm hard pressed to find one, as The Joker embodies everything a nemesis should be; completely opposite of the hero, and willing to stop at nothing to destroy them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Red vs Blue Debate

The news here in the good ole USA is filled with stories about Democrats and Republicans battling it out on several fronts.  Nothing unusual, nothing extraordinary, except for my perception on how the Republicans are handling their control of the House, and their large minority in the Senate.  It seems to me, that they aren't so much focused on making things better for this country, then they are of making sure one man doesn't get reelected.  The great strategy to see that Obama doesn't get reelected is to simply just deny him any legislature.  Not only deny him legislature, but to offer legislature of their own that is so absurd in what it does, that the President would have no option other than to veto the bill.

See their strategy isn't to fix the country, because if things get better than Obama looks as if he's doing a good job.  They are banking on the fact that people are ignorant of the news, and most of Americans are. It only takes a quick peak through independent news sources to see that by blocking and killing off legislation is all the Republicans have managed to do since they've gotten into power.  Yet, they will be the first to point out that things aren't getting any better.  Economy in the toilet; Obama's fault. War in Afghanistan; Obama's Fault.  See the strategy isn't to help further the country, it's to demonize one man so that people will vote against him.

The Republicans learned in the 90's with Clinton, that if they work with a Democratic president and things get better, it's hard to remove that president from power.  They aren't ready to make that same mistake again.  Jim Boehner after the Republicans one the majority in the House, stated that the goal was to get Obama out of office.  That's it in a nutshell they want full control.  So to do the Democrats, but the absolutely disgraceful tactics of blocking any legislation that doesn't completely fulfill their own goals is absurd.

The Democrats are in reality no better, however I am a bit biased in their direction.  They to have used similar tactics, and have as well been known to push any issue onto the other side, but I just find them to be willing to work a little more with the other side.  I'll even go so far as to say, that when they had the huge majorities after the 2008 election and before the midterms that I wanted to see them throw their weight around.  The Republicans would have had all their legislation through if they had the majority the Democrats did, and sadly the Democrats were too worried about image over substance.

It's a sad state of affairs when the elected officials in this country are more concerned with keeping power, then they are with fixing what's broken.  As to what's broken; just about anything you can think of in this country.  Poor tax coding that benefits the few rather than the many.  High cost for health care, and the lack of a real public option.  A social security system that is anemic and slowly killing itself from within.  Loop holes that make it cheaper for companies to export manufacturing jobs overseas.  And the systemic destruction of the public sector in which to help run all the various services that governments are tasked with doing.

The problems are large, and the solutions given by our elected officials are slim and only casually deal with the issues. If this country is to succeed, then we need leadership that is truly capable of looking to the other side of the aisle and having a legitimate conversation.  I for one am tired of the same old debate, and am ready for some real change.  I'm tired of being told that we the people will be given the help we need, only to see that helping us is to cut spending on education and the public sector.  This country is in serious need of a wake up call for who this country is for, before the labor force is nothing more than a statistic on a spread sheet.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Death; Death Never Changes

I've been preoccupied with death that past couple of days.  How would I inform the online community?  How would I distribute my worldly possessions?  All those nagging questions that have no easy answer, and yet at the same time have caused untold discomfort to my mind these past couple days.

I've gone through the scenarios; car crash; illness; murder; just about anything. None of them seem too ideal, but death waits for no one.  You can't change it, once you're dead you're dead.  My biggest concern is that I have made numerous friends online, some of which live close, and others that live far.  I don't know exactly what to expect when I die, nor do I fear the actual act of being dead.  Dieing on the other hand I do fear. The whole process just rubs me the wrong way. Whether it be the fact that I won't exist anymore, or the fact that if it's slow and painful I don't want to suffer.  However like I said I can't change dieing.

There is something that I can change.  Smoking.  I've said I'm quitting too many times to count.  Every time I've listed the benefits, I've listed the consequences of continuing, and yet every time I fall back into the addiction. I don't pride myself on smoking.  It's disgusting and expensive, but after smoking a pack a day for the past 7 years it's the worst thing I've ever had to give up.  The constant feeling in my throat, the headaches, and the withdrawal.  I've experienced every single one.  Quitting sucks, but I have to quit at some point.  Which is why I'm unleashing a new plan.  It might work, it probably won't either way at this point I have to try.

Starting with the end of this pack of cigarettes, I'm going to try a reward system.  I'm also going to do this entirely cold turkey, which is excessively hard to do, but I don't think the patch or gum is going to help.  I've tried both and it's just as easy to peel that patch off and spit that gum out. That's why I'm going to tackle the reward with something that I've been wanting for a while.  A Final Fantasy tattoo.

That's the Esper glyph for Zeromus in Final Fantasy XII it holds a special meaning to me.  First being that Zeromus was the first Final Fantasy final boss I ever beat.  Second as a reminder that at any time we can be judged for our actions, as he is the scion of holy order and condemner of criminals.  He's a bit dark for a character to be tattooed on me.  But nevertheless it should be a good tattoo for me.

The plan of action goes as follows.  For every day that I do not buy a pack of cigarettes, I know I left an out to smoke but I don't think people will take too kindly to me bumming from them every day, I will put away 5 dollars.  If I buy a pack of smokes, then that money saved up instantly goes towards payment of rent.  There is no I get to hold on to it for next time, it goes right to rent do not pass go do not get your tattoo.  If in a span of 80 straight days I do not buy a pack of cigarettes I will have saved 400 dollars and I will get this tattoo.  Whatever money is left over will go to some other fun activity for me to do.

I realized that when I told Liz about my fascination with death lately, and she asked is it because of the cigarettes, that I needed to quit.  This will hopefully help in that quest.

Until then be nice to each other, and keep it classy....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Time and Perception

It's been a long time since my first trip to a psych ward.  Nearly nine years ago, I went off the deep end. I spent nearly three hours in the house I was staying at trying to set all the clocks to the exact same time.  I went from clock to clock trying to change the time.  Each time was met with utter failure as the clock in the previous room still had a different time.  I recruited my ex girlfriend to help alleviate some of these problems, yet nothing could fix the feeling of panic as I was faced with a concept that wasn't constant.

I have a problem with things that aren't set in stone, as I find myself constantly battling with friends and family over start times and dates for events.  The problem is to me that time is short.  We only have a set amount of time to live the life that we are given, and in that time I want to experience as much as I can while there's time.  I wouldn't suggest that people get as OCD as I do about time.  I went to my therapist's office once, and literally told them that they needed to fix the clock on their wall because it was wrong.  Another week went by , and once again the time was wrong.  The looks that were aimed in my direction as I changed the clock to the time on my phone were quite comical, but it was something that must be done.

This isn't the focus of this blog, the focus of this blog is time.  Time is a mysterious force, while there is such a thing as a universal clock, time really is one of the most subjective and personal experiences we face everyday.  We've all been asked an ETA at some point in our life, and my answer from the same location to the same destination will differ from your answer.  Not only that but look at the closest clock you have that was set by your own two hands.  You got that time, now take a peak at the computer screen, chances are it's different as well.

Time can be completely different.  My 2PM is not your 2PM and the examples could go on and on.  Despite all this we try to control time as much as possible. Whether it be through plastic surgery, hair styles, clothing, or a number of various cosmetic ways of hiding the time we have been on the earth.  As we age we try to reverse time, and as we're young we pine for the time when we can have the freedoms that age grants us.  People are almost never entirely satisfied with time.  Some find pleasure in the uniform schedule and others enjoy the rampant chaos that comes from time and a hectic schedule.
Time is a good catalyst for how the world works, the business day is 9AM to 5PM bars close at 2AM in Maryland, and your cable is set to a time.  Without this purely subjective and man made phenomenon we wouldn't be able to handle much of the tasks given to us.  We could, but there would be no deadlines, and some people need a method to know when to get things done.  The problem though is that it's all man made.  Time doesn't exist, not in it's form today.  No one person mentioned time before people assigned a numerical value to it.  There are scientific formulas for how we got the 24 hour cycle, but all in all that was not how the world was designed to work.  If it was, there would be no time zones.  Everything would be set to the same time, and by arbitrary means that would be the time we worked.

For example, if we set the system up so that everything ran off EST, then the business day in California would start 6AM.  The time zones were created as a way to allow people to work in California when it was light out rather then in the middle of the night.  At the same time, time is no different then language. It's a symbol for the rotation of the Earth, just as language is a symbol for the various objects and communications that we need to provide to our fellow members of the species.  It's unique to us, but we created the English language.  It was a mix of several different dialects that eventually became what we know today.

The purpose of this blog is struggling to be found, but I suppose you could leave it with this message.  Reality is only what you perceive to be true.  If you believe yourself to be a dog, and truly do so, then you are a dog. If you believe that you can understand the difference between a rose, and rose then congratulations we share a sense of reality.  Otherwise just remember the American reality is just that; The American Reality, and doesn't belong in other cultures, their reality is that way for a reason, and their reality is their own to perceive.