Saturday, November 8, 2014

Milwaukee's Brony Convention: Grown men who love My Little Pony

My world is forever changed.  The kind of change where you can't go back.  There is life before knowing what a Brony is, and life after.  This is my experience at Wisconsin's first ever My Little Pony convention.

My Little Brony

This adventure, began on Friday.  Fox 6 photojournalist Joe Wagener asked if I would like to go with him to the Hyatt Regency downtown on Saturday, and help him write a story.  The subject, Wisconsin's first "My Little Pony Convention".

I've had a pretty depressing week.  This is the story Joe and I did on Thursday.  

I needed to tell something different.  Something happier. Joe found that place, and boy was I surprised!

I remember My Little Pony from my childhood.  My sister was a fan, and had the toys.  What I did not realize is it became a TV show.  I also had no idea in 2011, the 4th version of the show was created.  Turns out little girls are not the only fans of the show anymore.

Technically, the convention is called the Ponyville Ciderfest.  Instead of girls under the age of ten running around (which there were some) the majority of those attending the convention tended to be men in their 20's.  Men in their 20's, dressed up as ponies.

That pony in yellow is Steve Schertz.  Steve was introduced to My Little Pony two years ago.

"When I first started watching I thought I can watch this quietly in my house, and no one would ever know.   And now I am working on my second pony suit, I own a school bus I converted into an RV with ponies on it, a pony tattoo.  And I visited 12 different conventions," Steve told me.

Steve is a Brony.

"Bros, ponies, mix the two, and that’s where you get bronies," says convention organizer Corey Wood.

This convention, in its' first year, attracted more than 650 people.  Besides dressing up as characters from the show...there is dancing.

Ponies apparently like techno-esque music.   There are sit down sessions with voice actors from the show.

There is a hall full of vendors selling everything My Little Pony.  There was also a room with a couple arcade games.  Events at night included a formal dance and a "Cider Bar".

People came from all over the country to attend.  I am told the biggest convention is in Baltimore (almost 10,000 Bronies.)

Did it take me out of my comfort zone?  Yes.  Was everyone extremely welcoming and willing to share their seemingly strange love of the show?  Of course!

"We’re in Milwaukee, the home of Harley Davidson, there is nothing different than this than guys getting together, dressing up with something they love.  No different than other sub culture," says Steve.

"The show is all about friendship is magic, and that's the main theme of the show.   So all the bronies, all the fans of the show come here because they love the theme of the show,  they love the message.  So it’s all about love, tolerance, and acceptance," says Wood.

This was a learning experience.  Thank you Joe for asking me to tag along.  Thank you Bronies for the warm welcome!  I'll be sure to share the story when it is done!


Saturday, August 9, 2014


The plot, I am told, is I am arrested for aimlessly walking in traffic, and my son picks my up.  I demand to go to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect my million dollar lottery prize.

If my son is my wife, the million dollar prize is getting to see my family and nieces, and my interaction with police is actually a speeding ticket, well BY GOLLY, I just lived out the real life movie!

According to this map:A MAP TO LINCOLN, Lincoln, NE is 563 miles from Milwaukee.  Following work Saturday, Ashley and I loaded up the car, hit the road, and headed west.

We left work at 11PM at night, with the plan to stop in the Quad Cities (which sits along the mighty Mississippi), get a hotel, and finish the journey the following day.  After 3+ hours of driving, and about 2 minutes from our hotel, this happened.

The friendly officer in Le Claire, Iowa told me I was going 65 in a 45.  He was "kind enough" to drop it to 55 MPH.  $114 ticket, was not a great start to the trip.  Then again, every real life movie begins with struggles the main characters must overcome.

Driving through Iowa, on I-80, looks mostly like this for 5 hours.

There are a couple of cool wind farms west of Des Moines.  I took a pretty uneventful time lapse of the experience.

Arriving in Lincoln, meant a very rare occasion.  A) All of the Handelman's in one place at the same time.  And B) I get to see my AMAZING nieces.

Charlotte is 2 years old.  Her passions while we were there included playing isles.

I'm not really sure what isles is.  Her mother says she had never heard her say the word before.  I think it was a game to create islands, and then throw them back in the rock pile.

Quinn is three WEEKS old.

Her passions include sleeping and pooping while in my lap (diaper protected).  Her parents do not know why she has a huge head of black hair.

We only had one full day in Lincoln and we spent it at the adorable Lincoln Children's Zoo.  We met crazy creatures.

Charlotte found her web.

Mom fed the local goat population.

We found a strange frog.

 Following the zoo, we took a few family photos.  It was just like the old days with Scott and Sara.

Our trip included a pool party!

On the way back we met a Hawkeye.

And a presidential birthplace.

We got back just in time to see a Milwaukee sunset.

In total, we spent over 17 hours in the car.

It was worth every second!  

Thank you mom and dad for making this happen and Scott and Jess for being awesome hosts.  Thank you Charlotte and Quinn for the smiles.  Can't wait to do this again soon!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pure Michigan and 216 Steps.

Maybe it is how they are written, or the the piano notes.  Maybe it is my love of Tool Time.  When I hear Tim Allen's voice come on the radio or TV, I admit, I want to go to Pure Michigan.

With summer here, and my mother-in-law declaring the entire month following her birthday, her birthday, Ashley's family rented a house and we headed to St. Joseph, Michigan.

I knew the Lake Michigan shoreline by Indiana contains enormous sand dunes.  Some that swallow children.    I did not however know, that Michigan too contains HUGE sand bluffs.  I learned quickly.

216 steps.

It is the number required to get from said beach house, to beach.

I've been told our beach house sat on the highest inhabitable bluff on Lake Michigan.  Is this true?  Who knows.  But after a few trips up this baby, I believe it.

The beach was awesome!  It was private, since no one was crazy enough to build stairs to the beach for several hundred yards.

Charlie, my nephew loved playing in the water and spitting out mouthfuls he accidentally inhaled.

Even better than the beach, was the prize at getting to the top of the stairs.

Being a night owl, I rarely get to see the amazing sunrises in Milwaukee.  With great weather for our week (minus one cold day, and one epic storm that can be described as an act of God) we got to see plenty of picture perfect sunsets on this side of the lake!

During the week we did some exploring.  I met a friendly dinosaur.

Drank some wine from a Marquette grad (who worked one year in journalism but admitted it was worse than farming so rejoined his family business)

I even got to see my old coworker Rick Schutt from Champaign, do his thang at his new station in South Bend.

We saw a couple fireworks.  We could have seen more, but it would require a trip down and up the stairs (which we were too tired to do.)

It was a great week.  I got some sun (NOTE: Everything in this picture is now burned)

I grew a vacation beard.

And I developed great calves.

Thank you Sears family!  Thank you Tim Allen.  Thank you Pure Michigan.!!


Saturday, April 12, 2014


Need a lift?  Put away your wallet!  A cab war in Milwaukee means for the next couple of weeks, you can get a free ride anywhere in MKE (for a ride that would costs $25 or less).

Ironically, the war is between two companies who vehemently deny being cab companies.  It appears the only people not offering free rides in Milwaukee are legitimate cabbies.

On Friday, Lyft, a "ride sharing service" launched in Milwaukee.  They're known for their strange mustaches in front of their cars.  To kick things off in Milwaukee, they are offering 50 FREE rides for the next two weeks for EVERYONE.

SWEET!  That's a lot of rides.

Not to be outdone, UberX, who launched a couple weeks ago, is offering free rides through April 20th.

What in the world is Uber and Lyft?  Well it is the cabbie of the future (but once again, they DENY being cabs).

Basically, a Joe schmo with a decent car, picks you up and drives you somewhere.  You ask for a ride through the Lyft and Uber Apps.  

You also don't give your driver money.  When you download the app, you insert your credit card information.  When your ride starts, your driver hits a button on his smart phone, and when they drop you off they hits another button.  

The tip is already built in.  The car stops, you get out, say goodbye, wave, blow a kiss, AND BAM, you're done.  (Kinda sounds like a cab doesn't it?).

The only issue is the whole service may be illegal.  Lyft and Uber drivers do not have cab permits.  No government official is checking to make sure the break pads aren't worn down to nothing and you are getting into a death trap surely to end in your fiery demise.

It's pissed off city hall.  So far, the two companies appear to be basically sticking middle fingers out the window as they drive by on Water St.

If you are OK with that, then enjoy the FREE RIDES!  Let me know how your trips go!

If you haven't seen Conan's Lyft adventure, it's worth a couple minutes of your time.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Go Uconn, from a kid who never went there

"You didn't go to Uconn Ben, how can you be a Uconn fan?"
"You're not even a real Uconn fan."
"Ben, you went to Quinnipiac, why are you even cheering for Uconn?!"

Ahhhh.  The common complaint.  Why do you cheer for Uconn? Why do you act like Jonathon the Husky dog is a family pet? What the heck is Quinnipiac?

No.  I did not attend Uconn.  But to not understand why I love Jim Calhoun like a God, Ray Allen as the best basketball player to ever grace this earth, is to not understand the beautiful state of Connecticut.

CT, has no major professional sports team since these guys left town.

Uconn defines in many ways who the people of CT are.  The nutmeg state is split right down the middle when it come to baseball with the Yankees or Red Sox.  Jets, Giants, or Patriots split the NFL.  Bruins and Rangers for the NHL.  And don't even get me started with METS fans.  Who the heck are they?
Growing up, everyone cheered for Uconn.

We all cried when they lost.
We all rioted when they won.

OK, I did not take part in any riots (although I did witness them in 2004).

UCONN defines my childhood, my home state, and a lot of good memories.  So with the game about to kick off, GO UCONN!

On the other side of the bracket--- I'll be rooting on the Badgers.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Lipinski Stradivarius, you've done it!

Lipinski Stradivarius violin, you've done it.  You've made me want to hear you in PERSON.

 If this was your sick twisted magical way of making me want to buy a Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra ticket, bravo.  THIS is quite the performance.

Before the 6 million dollar musical instrument went missing, this was my favorite classical performance.

This, even though I played the following instrument in high school.

Lipinski, you did it.  You had me fascinated, when a couple armed with a taser attacked the MSO concertmaster as he walked out of a recent performance.

What's that?  It may be the largest heist in Milwaukee history.  Of course it is.  You were made in 1715? Why didn't I know that?

So where's the violin?  New York?

No it would be impossible to sell a 6 million dollar violin in the US without getting caught.

OK, that's IT!  A network of international criminals has stolen the violin and shipped it to China to be sold to emperors who care little about its origin.

Wait....  what's that you say?  It's in Bay View?  Like the one over the Hoan Bridge?


It was tracked using evidence left behind by the taser, which led cops to a sale from Texas, which tipped them to a man in Wisconsin?

I'm listening...

The man's name is Universal Knowledge Allah?


Lipinski.  You've outdone yourself.  I need to hear you.  Move over Jurassic Park, get me some popcorn, because I want to hear this puppy for myself.  In the meantime I'm going to watch this video 40-thousand times.