Category Archives: Annoying Burghers
I cannot take another newspaper ad or another ridiculous scary-sounding television commercial by either Highmark or UPMC. Like, I haven’t been this stabby since Mayor Luke learned what a hashtag is.
I am sick of both of them. I don’t care who wins at this point, because they’re both going to lose; King Solomon is going to cut their baby in half.
We are not opening the Sunday paper to read these ads in the hopes of finally coming down on either side of the fence. I hate to tell you this, but there is no fence. It’s like the final three days leading up to an important election when we are mercilessly bombarded with scary-sounding ads at every turn. We start to hate everyone, even the person we’re going to vote for. We would get sick of our own father’s face if he was the one running for office. “Not this guy again. Ugh.”
Go read my message to UPMC and Highmark. Spread it. Share it. Make sure everyone reads it so that it will reach who it needs to at Highmark and UPMC and their eyes will open and they’ll say, “Wait. So you’re saying THE COMMERCIALS AND ADS ARE MAKING YOU HATE BOTH OF US?! HOW CAN THIS BE?!? WE THOUGHT YOU WERE DUMBER THAN THAT! WHERE IS MY SECURITY BLANKIE MADE OF STITCHED-TOGETHER HUNDRED DOLLAR BILLZ?!”
It is time for the ad war to stop and working toward a solution to start, and that’s not going to happen until they realize I am speaking the truth. So let them hear it.
We’re sick of both of ya, Highmark and UPMC. At this point, we’re rooting for an asteroid.
A big one.
P.S. CAN YOU BELIEVE THE EDITOR ALLOWED THAT LAST GIF?!!?!?!?!?!? WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU?!?!? I CANNOT STOP SHOUTING AT THE EPICNESS OF THAT!!!!!!!! ALL YOUR EXCLAMATION POINTS ARE BELONG TO US!!!!!!
Groups. Subsidiaries. Conglomerates. Amalgamation. Brain explosion.
Let’s have a quiz. Are the following excerpts about UPMC from a Post-Gazette article or an article from the satirical news site The Onion:
- But UPMC itself? “We don’t have employees,” Mr. Pietragallo said.
- Mr. Wood said he sees no contradiction when UPMC claims it employs 55,000 people in marketing and business materials — and no one in court.
- He did not know which subsidiary employed him nor UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff.
Of course they’re from the Post-Gazette because this is about UPMC and it seems lately UPMC sees the border of Ridiculous and says, “Let’s just step over that line and head fully into the Territory of ABSOLUTE BONKERS whose capital city is Loophole Heaven.”
As a refresher, UPMC is being sued by the City of Pittsburgh to have its charitable organization status revoked. This means they would no longer be exempt from property and wage taxes. UPMC is now claiming that since it technically has no employees, it cannot be sued for wage taxes. No wages. No wage taxes. No lawsuit. Magic! [throws confetti]
UPMC has clearly been protecting itself from such a lawsuit for years in that it seems to indeed pay all employees through one of its 37 subsidiaries — even their corporate employees who have no association with any specific hospital. As one UPMC corporate-employed reader put it, “My badge says ‘UPMC Corporate Services,’ but my paystub says Presby.”
That person does not work at UPMC Presby, but his paystub says he’s paid by that subsidiary, certainly lending support to UPMC’s claim it has no real employees — just 55,000 people scattered around 37 subsidiaries and therefore, the city’s lawsuit should be thrown out.
I assume the entirety of corporate upper-management at UPMC walks around in shirts that say, “Keep Calm and Loophole On.”
I get this is how the corporate world operates, but in this case UPMC is being beyond absurd to the point that it is almost insulting to the residents of the city of Pittsburgh and the employees of their 37 subsidiaries, of which Jeffrey Romoff doesn’t even know which is issuing his seven-figure paycheck, apparently.
Here’s why it’s insulting and absurd. Here’s a snapshot from the I-990 form via Guidestar.org that “UPMC Group” filed in 2012 which showed a reported income of $7.7 billion:
How can UPMC claim to have zero employees and that their widely self-reported 55,000 number is just a “marketing number,” when they officially filed with the Internal Revenue Service claiming they employ 52,000 as a group?
0 = 52,000?
Is this new math? Did they forget to regroup? Carry the billion? Solve for X where X = “How the hell can we get ourselves out of this mess?”
You can have zero employees … or you can have 55,000 employees. You cannot have BOTH zero and 55,000 employees and then just choose which number suits you best for certain circumstances. I mean loopholes are great and all, but at some point, you’re just trying to defy the laws of mathematics and possibly physics and for all I know, gravity.
I’m not a corporate accountant. I’m not a lawyer. I’m a Pittsburgher. And as a Pittsburgher and a human with a brain in her head, I am qualified to tell you that this is farcical and insulting and it will only serve to generate even greater ill-will toward UPMC than currently exists among the public who already imagine UPMC as King Kong squashing any puny entity that dares approach its territory.
Who knows what will hold up in the court of law, but in the court of public opinion, this “we have no employees” defense will not stand. It will serve only to anger, because this is how we non-accountant, non-lawyer Burghers are looking at it:
That or, “I actually have no hands. It’s all a mirage.”
Stop this nonsense and get to work proving you’re a charity, UPMC. Because if you really are, this creative legal maneuvering wouldn’t even be necessary.
Math is hard. The truth is easy.
For an issue that shouldn’t have really had a clear winner or loser, The Cultural Trust has done a bang-up job of mucking up its little tiff with the Toonseum’s Joe Wos to the point that guess what? The Toonseum is coming out the winner.
Good job good effort, Cultural Trust.
Back to the beginning.
[How I Met Your Mother SWOOOOOSH]
First, by writing this, I’ll probably get on the Trust’s bad side. And you’re like, “Does the Trust really have a bad side?” As I’m about you show you, it does. It has a dark side. It has a SQUASH THE PUNY HUMANS side. It has a horse-in-your-bed side. I’m exaggerating.
Here’s what I know:
1. Artist Florentijn Hofman created an installation in 2007 called … ready … The Rubber Duck Project. In his effort to bring “joy” to cities and to MAKE SHITLOADS OF MONEY, he created an enormous rubber duck (really an inflatable) that has appeared in a dozen cities. Each city, from what I can gather, basically builds its own duck at Mr. Hofman’s instructions/bidding. Each one is a different size. For instance, ours needs to fit under certain bridges lest schoolchildren witness a duck beheading. Sydney, Australia commissioned and still owns theirs.
2. The Trust contacted Hofman and he agreed to bring the duck (or rather allow a duck to be built) to Pittsburgh for the Trust’s Festival of Firsts.
3. Pittsburgh freaked out in excitement. Our rivers graced by the duck, making its first appearance in America. Suck it, Portland. [rocker kick] The duck will be here next Friday.
4. The Trust has possibly invested “several hundred thousand dollars” in this installation (I’ve emailed the Trust with this question. If they respond, I’ll update the post). What I don’t know is if that’s just the artist’s fee or if that’s the artist fee combined with building fees and logistics like transporting the duck, security, etc. Either way, the artist is MAKING A SHITLOAD OF MONEY. But he says he just wants to bring joy and public art to the people. But he’s seriously making bank here. Dollah dollah billz.
The Trust is also going to make money off of this investment via merchandise sales, sponsorships, and the fact that the duck is basically a giant advertisement for their Festival of Firsts and other forthcoming shows that fall under the Trust’s umbrella.
5. The Toonseum is, according to Wos, ”doing an exhibition of Rubber Ducks working with a company that has been producing them for over a decade. And exhibiting art of cartoon ducks that predate this big rubber duck by 70 years in some case.”
Seeing a chance for promotion, Wos created a shirt featuring a rubber duck, very similar to the Hofman duck, and put it up for sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Toonseum:
He started taking pre-orders and the Trust responded in calm, measured fashion.
6. Joe received an email as follows from the Trust’s vice president of marketing and communications:
It was surprising to see the attached Facebook post on the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s website attempting to sell Rubber Duck tee shirts with a representation of the Rubber Duck Project that the Cultural Trust is presenting. Further, messaging that ‘proceeds of the tee shirts are going to benefit Toonseum’ is a major problem for us.
When you had inquired as to whether we would have official merchandise, the answer was yes. You were at no point given permission from the Trust to produce Rubber Duck tees of your own.
You may be unaware of the magnitude of our investment in this project. The artist also has a very high stake in maintaining the brand of the Rubber Duck and have asked us to help stop the very activity that Toonseum is undertaking. We have contacted other organizations that have attempted their own knock off merchandise but it is unexpected that a partner in the Cultural District would try to use our investment for profit and to further fundraise off of another organization’s presentation is truly flabbergasting.
Kevin is extremely unhappy as are many senior staff members at the Trust.
We ask that you cease and desist the selling of this unauthorized merchandise.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
First, “maintaining the brand of the Rubber Duck?”
It’s a big rubber duck. It’s not an original concept.
Here’s one in an old episode of the PowerPuff Girls Z, which Joe used as inspiration when drawing his duck:
Capitalizing the first letter of something doesn’t make it a brand, otherwise, I’d like to say I have a high stake in maintaining the brand of Nutella Hoover.
7. Joe responded:
Marc, just to be clear are you asking that we change the image of the rubber duck to one that looks less like the rubber duck by the artist?
This is the perfect response. It’s a rubber duck and the artist wants to protect his version of the rubber duck (which isn’t really his version as you’ll see), so if Joe were to make the rubber duck look like ANY ONE OF THESE RUBBER DUCK SHIRTS, then would the Trust be cool with that?
Marc’s response is a non-response:
Toonseum is directly referencing the Rubber Duck installation in your messaging and asking people to show their Pittsburgh spirit by purchasing a tee shirt representing that art installation for profit and fundraising.
Turn it around… How would you feel if an organization started knocking off merch for a Toonseum exhibition (that you invested your blood, sweat and tears into) and then sold that unauthorized merch against your own merchandise on Toonseum’s Facebook page?
Frankly, the ill-will that this is causing is not worth whatever dollars you’ll make.
I’ll ask Kevin to continue this conversation with you.
I hope that a positive outcome can be attained since this is not good for either organization.
This would be more valid if it wasn’t just a simple rubber duck. It’s not an original creation in any way, shape or form. What about the guy who invented the rubber duck in the late 19th century? How does his family feel about this art? Not only that, City Paper reveals that guess what? The artist admittedly simply enlarged a duck already sold by DuckTolo Toys!
He didn’t even create that particular duck!
If the artist had created some Phineas and Ferb-esque insane contraption that floated on the river, pulled in river water and turned it into wine and glitter before shooting it out of a cannon, then maybe the Toonseum shouldn’t make a “SHOOT WINE AND GLITTER OUT YOUR BUTT N’AT!” shirt.
But it’s a duck. A rubber duck.
And no matter how much you capitalize it, it’s still just a rubber duck, Ernie.
8. Joe refused to pull down the shirt, and instead informed the public that the Trust had sent him a cease and desist, at which time … VIRAL HAPPENED.
Yes, a little shirt that probably would have sold like 5 copies, is instead appearing on every single media outlet and is burning up local social media like a bag of cotton balls set on fire with the flames of the sun. Most everyone is on the Toonseum’s side on this one. Because … I can’t stress this enough … it’s a rubber duck. And because we always cheer for the little guy.
9. Not only that, the digital artist for the Cultural Trust, Brian Nichols, used his personal account to post on the Toonseum’s Facebook page to vent:
Holy quap, indeed.
10. Now, here’s my thoughts on this.
First, you can buy your own giant inflatable rubber duck and stick it on the river until the police shoot holes in it.
Second, I wouldn’t have a problem if the Trust asked Joe to change the image to look different from THE Rubber Duck. It’s valid. They’ve invested in that particular version of the duck; make your own version and sell it in your shop. But instead the Trust is just stomping their feet and being incredibly stubborn for an organization that is currently promoting and making money off of an unsanctioned by J.K. Rowling UNAUTHORIZED HARRY POTTER PLAY.
Third, I compare this to the vendors who sell “Pirates” gear near the ballpark. You’ll notice nothing actually says Pirates. Instead the hat will be black and gold and it will say “Pittsburgh.” The Pirates have invested tons of money into their own merchandise, but even they know sending a cease and desist to generic black and gold pirate-themed merchandisers is a losing game. Besides, other than those who are looking to save a few bucks, most want the AUTHENTIC merchandise. We want Cole’s name on our backs. We want the angry pirate dude on it. We want the sweet P. Likewise, the Trust should have realized the market for their official merchandise will be fantastic, with or without one knockoff shirt being sold in a tiny museum down the street.
11. What should have happened? The Trust should have asked Joe to cease and desist using THAT particular duck and Joe would have complied. He would have made it a more generic rubber duck and sold 30 shirts, if that. The official merchandise, which is AWESOME, would have sold thousands and thousands.
Instead, the Trust is going after all duck-themed merchandise that could be sold in conjunction with their forthcoming installation, angering the public.
By their own fault, it’s now viral and it’s a Big Deal. And since I capitalized it, you know I mean business.
I don’t even want to know what the Trust will do when they see this site, which has been selling duck merchandise since 2009:
And not just because of the Comic Sans.
12. And finally, to the Trust I say, “Frankly, the ill-will that this is causing is not worth whatever dollars you’ll make.”
That’s my take on it. What do you think?
Please don’t comment with “This is low, Ginny … just low.”
1. It’s all fun and games until the tarantula food escapes.
That’s going on my gravestone.
2. So remember that topless protest I wrote about, in which I told you there are perfectly good reasons to keep boobies covered up? Well, the protest took place over the weekend.
Here’s the AP’s take:
Pittsburgh topless rally winds up anything but
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pittsburgh rally planned by a group hoping to Celebrate Women’s Equality Day by having women march topless alongside men in bikinis turned out to be anything but.
Fewer than a dozen protesters showed up Sunday, and none of the women bared their tops — though a handful of men did.
PUNCH ALL THE MEDIA THINGS.
For future reference, WTAE, when a throng of thousands of angry people overrun downtown like biblical locusts to the point traffic is clogged, businesses are plundered and looted, and chaos runs rampant, that’s when you pull out your “take over Pittsburgh” headline.
Not for eight covered boobies walking slowly to the Point.
The next time Occupy Pittsburgh does their thing, I fully expect the WTAE headline to read, “Armageddon nigh. World all but over.”
3. An ex-pat Burgher wrote for ChicagoNow.com the six things she misses most about Pittsburgh, then followed it up with “Six real reasons not to move to Pittsburgh” and it was the most goat-getting thing I’ve read about the Burgh in a while. So I wrote about it for my Pittsburgh Magazine blog:
3. Lack of plentiful public transportation has resulted in a culture of drunk driving in Pittsburgh.
Rebuttal: My goat is dead.
Yes, public transportation needs to be fixed. It’s a black eye. But this is a terrible accusation, one that I can refute with facts.
Kids grow up knowing they’re low on the totem pole. Choices are limited. Freedom to just be is tempered by cultural restraints. They’re placed in boxes: “You are a girl. You will like pink, purple and these three aisles in Target. You will get the ‘girl toy’ at the drive-thru. Get in this box that I have bedazzled for you; it’s filled with Barbie dolls and Hello Kitty press-on nails. And you are a boy. You will like sports, NERF guns and armpit farts. Here is a box of dirt and worms. I buried some Matchbox cars and G.I. Joes in there. Hop in.”
But what about the girl who wants to play with dirt instead of Barbies? Or the boy who wants to play the violin instead of third base? They’re special, too, and that’s what Mister Rogers was telling us as children. He was saying, “Screw the box!” Jump out of its cookie-cutter confines and run free to whatever your heart loves because doing that is what will make you special — embracing and accepting you.
5. Jamie and Ali McMutrie’s Haitian Families First is at it again with a new year of #46in46 where they try to get 46 of their Haitian kids funded for school this year.
Reminder: In Haiti, kids don’t HAVE to go to school; they GET to go to school. It’s a privilege for those who can afford it and Jamie and Ali are working to make sure their kids can afford it.
Last year I sponsored this angel Ylionise, and it was extra meaningful to me because Jamie and Ali worked so hard to bring her to the US for life-saving heart surgery. Now she’s healthy and back in Haiti getting an education thanks to them.
Get a group of your friends together and adopt one of their kids’ educations!
6. The staff and residents at Asbury Heights nursing home, who probably have pretty clear memories of Roberto’s career, show their Bucco spirit (click for embiggen):
7. Genre’s Kids with Cancer run/walk is happening next month, a whole block from my house. I’ll be there … not running. BUT I’LL BE THERE AND THAT’S WHAT COUNTS.
8. Also, why not run the Mario Lemieux Foundation 6.6K run/family walk in this its inaugural year. I mean, if you’re a loony who loves to run, why not run for sick kids?
Can you tell I quit that whole running business? Because, you guys, I hate running.
Back to low-carb diet/Jillian Michaels/praying for wasting disease for me.
9. David Conrad. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
10. Soup to Nutz’s annual tribute cartoon strip for Roberto Clemente’s birthday.
11. Finally, I shared this on Twitter, but it really needs to be seen.
On a scale of 1 to Roid-Raging Mike Tyson, how punchy does this sign make you?
I was going to write this post for my blog at Pittsburgh Magazine, but I feel like at some point I’m going to want to be all “choke a bitch” or “shit a brick” or “[BEWBS]” or something, so I’ll just leave this here instead.
With a slightly lower voter turnout than in 2009 when 45,416 votes were cast in the Democratic Primary, last night Bill Peduto won his party’s nomination and if history is any indicator — and right now History is all, “Bitch, have you met me? I am the BIGGEST indicator.” — then Bill Peduto is the next mayor of Pittsburgh.
Lukey’s arch-nemesis. The man against which Lukey spent God-knows-how-many dollars to destroy.
Right now Lukey is sitting next to the brick he shit last night and is writing some super depressing rap rhymes that contain rhyming pairs like “dude/rude” and “haters/gators” and “mud/crud.” Lukey is TERRIBLE at writing raps.
Wagner was Lukey’s Chosen One.
You know this because he bankrolled anti-Peduto ads and left some super fierce [snap snap] Facebook comments about “haters” and “He said duty. Heh.” I might be misremembering that second one. [shrug]
And you can be sure this is how he looked as he watched the results last night:
Wagner picked up Lukey’s supporters and that included the police and firefighters unions and I don’t need to tell you this, but they aren’t happy with the results.
Alluding to Mr. Peduto’s support for the state supervision that curbs the bargaining leverage of city unions, Mike LaPorte, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police said the new nominee “treats the city workers like garbage.”
“I’m thinking about retiring,” he added.
Let me translate:
Regardless, this is the first day of the beginning of the end of the Ravenstahl era. I once had really high hopes for Luke, and now I’ll transfer those high hopes to Bill Peduto, just as I would have done if Jack Wagner had won.
You can be against Peduto, but you can’t be against Pittsburgh; so let’s hope for the best and see where this new road leads us.
Hopefully we won’t find ourselves suffering with typhoid and cholera, fording a rapidly rising Mon while riding a three-wheeled wagon being pulled by dysentery-riddled oxen.