Simpson Bandit RX1 Throwback Project

I’ve been obsessed with helmets for a long time…

If you know me, you know I have a weird obsession with helmets—all kinds. But I wanted to take a moment to talk about the helmet that sparked my obsession—The Simpson “Bandit.” There isn’t much info about the original model online. The best info I could find was that the original Bandit had a RX1 model designation and was first released in 1979 by Bill Simpson (Simpson Race Products). The earliest iterations you can see above in the Rutherford and De Angelis photos. I grew up watching sprint car racing (see Brad Doty photo above)—and later participated in open wheel dirt racing in midgets (see photos above). From a style perspective, even as a little kid I thought the looks of the bandit were so unique—particularly the nose piece. Anyone wearing one automatically looked like a badass. So, naturally when I started racing I wanted one. Simpson helmets were always elusive and expensive. I’m sure they still are. It took several years, but I finally got my first bandit when I made the switch from go-karts to midgets. The bandits at that time had of course been updated stylistically, but still retained the same basic shape. They also had nomex (fireproof) lining—when you’re strapped into a racecar that’s basically a moving bomb nomex is a definite safety plus (more on that later).

Another thing about Simpson products that were very memorable to me as a kid is the Simpson catalogue I’d get every year. The catalogue had a range of products, from drag racing parachutes (what Simpson initially got famous for inventing) to helmets, firesuits, seatbelts, etc…But the thing that really stuck out to me was a short article Simpson wrote about his products that included a photo of him intentionally setting himself on fire to demonstrate the quality of his products. I thought this was incredible, and now I’d say from a branding perspective it’s about as good as it gets. My second Simpson helmet after the bandit was a speedway shark (see above). I also bought a high quality firesuit and gloves from Simpson, and don’t ya know it, one night me and my car caught on fire. Long story short, the fuel injection system malfunctioned during a race and was spraying fuel from the top of the motor—unbeknownst to me fuel was getting all over me and the car while we were at speed, but it wasn’t bad because we were pretty much full throttle during the whole heat race, so most of the fuel was still being consumed by the motor. When the race ended and I let off the gas flames burning off from my exhaust (a normal occurence) ignited fuel that the fuel pump was literally spraying from the leak—now that I wasn’t on the throttle the system had more back pressure on it. Our cars used methanol for fuel, meaning the fire was invisible except for impurities. As soon as I let off the throttle all I felt was a wave of intense heat and could see hints of fire all around me—I definitely knew what was going on though. An article I had read about a sprint car driver that got trapped in his burning car flashed through my mind before I could even think about anything else. Other than that I don’t remember much about how I got out of the car. I was able to get out myself pretty fast though—I had a cam lock belt system instead of a latch system and I feel that helped. I rolled out of the car onto the track. I didn’t know if I was still on fire or not, because my suit, gloves, and helmet were all super hot. They hit me and the car with a fire extinguisher and got all the switches turned off in the car really quickly. It was a crazy experience. Even crazier we fixed the car and raced the next day of the show. I put new visor on my helmet because parts of it were melted and coated with extinguisher residue. It was an eerie site, but I didn’t get burned at all—I got super lucky—and the track crew was awesome. I started 21st and finished 3rd in the feature at a tough venue in Oklahoma (then I-44 Speedway)—it was one of my best races ever.

Of course, this is just a for-fun, not for profit illustration project, but drawing this stuff brings back great memories. And it’s fun to celebrate designed artifacts that both work and look awesome. In the small world of sprint car racing I’d say this helmet was trend setting. Bill Simpson had a very interesting trajectory, which basically led to him getting ousted (unfairly IMO) from his own company in the early 2000s. Apparently this unfortunately had something to do with the Death of Dale Earnhardt and his seatbelts failing in his fatal crash. He subsequently started another race product company and then a company that made lightweight football helmets for kids. Apparently dude loved helmets more than me. Simpson is still a super popular brand, but it’s always funny when a company boots the person it is named after and continues on without changing the name—I’m sure that was a very strange feeling for Bill Simpson to see his name being used without even being a part of the company 🤷‍♂️. That’s America, I guess. He recently passed away, which I hated to see. He certainly made a lasting impact in the racing community, not just in terms of safety innovations, but also style. That’s all for now—ciao.

💂‍♂️ + 🏎 + 🎨

micro/macro/man with camera

quickpost:

I use my camera as a tool for deep observation when moving through or lingering in a space. Over the past months, I’ve noticed texture patterns in my photos—regardless of how micro or macro the shot is. As a graphic designer I’ve always had a tendency to flatten everything out I photograph (or illustrate). It’s interesting seeing this habit show up in my photo process through how I crop /compose in the viewfinder with the camera. The visual result kind of turns everything into a texture—whether it’s a close up of tree bark or at 30K feet over the Swiss Alps. The visual similarities that persist from such different vantage points are fascinating to me. Just a short blurb for today—ciao.

📸 + 🌎 + 🔬

a winter weekend in foggy Venezia

As seen on a local instagram feed near you ☝️

yeah, there were holiday lights, but who cares

Amanda and I recently took a weekend trip to Venezia—it’s so amazing (and still unbelievable to us) such an incredible city is less than an hour from our home! When we left Polcenigo, it was bright and sunny, but as we approached the ocean we could see there was a pretty extensive fog bank. Well, we were only there for about 24 hours, and the thick fog was with us the entire time. I’ve never experienced Venezia like this—not crowded, cold, and of course, foggy as hell. It made for very special experience. Exploring an already dreamy city in the fog upped the dreamy-factor 10X. We saw a beautiful tree and lots of holiday lights—but who needs that when nature and the city are already putting on a much better show? Our favorite part of the city is around the Arsenale. There, you will find more green space and quiet residential areas. We happened upon a soccer (Calcio) match in the neighborhood park where we were staying. It just felt good to be out there floating on the edge (that was the sensation, at least) with other people in the fog.

🌫 + 🌨 + 🚶‍♂️

where stress relief mantras, civil engagement, & typographic experimentation intersect:

Selections from the daily “I’m Voting in 2020” exercise I created running up to the U.S. presidential election of 2020 💆‍♂️. The premise was simple. Use the same text to create a new typographic poster every day. You can see toward the end I experimented with multi-image carousels with instagram and the final image, which changed the text to end the series. A bit apocalyptic, you say? I’d agree.

course changes, platform changes, etc…

I was going through my files to back up the other day and I stumbled upon this project. It’s crazy—even though I spent a lot of time on this over the course of several months, the images had sort of been erased from my memory. I’ve always naturally been drawn toward process-orientated projects that are more endurance-based than outcome focused. Obviously, the 2020 election was a very stressful time for most people in the United States (and world for that matter). So much stress and fatigue had been building up since the 2016 election, the all-out, year+ shit-show battle leading up to the election (coupled with a global pandemic) was too much to handle. Making sense of it all felt impossible. This continues to be the case, as reverberations from 2016-2020 politics in America are still being—and will be—felt from now on. We have entered a new space of uncertainty in so many domains. That said, some of these spaces were badly in need of change—maybe one of the only silver linings here. So, what did I do? Well, I tried to focus on the only thing I knew I could actually control—voting. I applied to work the election in my community (which I did—super stressful, but I worked with amazing people) and I created a one sentence “I’m Voting in 2020” mantra. I used my design and typography skills to practice this mantra as a method to communicate resilience, focus, and resolve. I had so much nervous energy this is the only way I knew to vent it. I did this over the course of 3-4 months. I ended up creating around 50 images total. The original idea was to share daily on instagram, which I did. I have since taken these, and well, everything else I had up at the time down. Why? I’ve grappled with this on the blog many times…and the blog was what I elected to put my time into instead of instagram. I’m back on instagram, but using it very differently these days. All of the posts are very fast to make and only serve what I’m doing here. Why spend a ton of time on something just for instagram when it is consumed in one second and then relegated to the digital waste heap of sadness that is, instagram. P.S, this is fine, if that is the mentality. Any sort of emotional attachment to content is a recipe for sadness—and I’m a pretty emotional guy, lol. The media flood I was willingly a part of during the election exhausted me to the point of total burnout. I knew there would be a media war and consciously joined the content battle—this project was my way of doing that—I think in many ways it undermined the mantra aspects of what I was trying to do. Honestly, I think it ended up creating more stress than it relieved! It’s only now I can look back and see some value in what I did—both as an exercise in focus and as an exercise in design. Some of those images are pretty damn nice if I do say so myself! It took making the same thing over and over again to get into that truly experimental space, though. It was personal. It was emotional. It was too damn much. I decided I would stop getting political on instagram. Its a fickle platform—it’s a screaming match. I’m done with that. I put my thoughts here. Anything that is even slightly political now has its home here. It’s a place where you can actually learn something real about who I am if you take the time to look. I think maybe at one time instagram or facebook (or other platforms) were that, but not anymore. But, would I do over again if I had the chance—yeah, I would. Just some thoughts on a Tuesday. —ciao

🙃 + 👨‍💻 + 💆‍♂️

Opinion—2021 F1 Finale, Abu Dhabi GP

“motor racing” you say 🤨?

So—I’m a mediocre formula one fan, but it was without a doubt an amazing season. The top two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen went into the last race tied in points. I had a chance to watch the final race of the season and was super disappointed with the outcome. Not because one driver or another won (I’m a Ricciardo fan), but because how inconsistent officiating interfered with performances on the track, and ultimately, impacted the outcome of the race. 

99% of the race was honestly pretty dull. There was a little excitement at the start, but the only real excitement after that was when Checo Perez (the other Red Bull team car) was able to strategically battle with Hamilton for a few laps, allowing Verstappen to catch them. That said, after Hamilton passed Checo he was able to pull away from Verstappen again. This event ultimately did not have an significant impact on the race outcome.

The part of the race that truly bothered me was after the caution came out for Latifi’s crash. By this time, Hamilton was around 11-12 seconds ahead of Verstappen. During this process, Hamilton lapped a handful of cars—putting them between himself and Verstappen—meaning Verstappen was unable to lap these cars before the caution came out. From my understanding, the race steward, Michael Masi initially announced they were not going to allow the lapped cars to regain their position on the lead lap, meaning lapped cars would stay between Hamilton and Verstappen for the final restart. However, at the last second, the race steward decided to let the only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen back onto the lead lap, meaning they were able to pass Hamilton to finish on the lead lap of the race. The rest of the drivers (my guy included) were not allowed to get back on the lead lap. This put Verstappen directly behind Hamilton, creating a one lap shoot out to finish the race. While this makes for great television, the decision- making behind this kind of move by the race steward was incredibly problematic. 

Why it was objectively unethical:
Okay, so here’s why what the race steward did was super effed-up. It goes without saying late cautions always make things more spicy when it comes to racing. Both teams in the championship hunt were making in the moment strategic decisions based off the feedback they were getting from race control. When the caution came out and the steward indicated that lapped cars would be kept between Hamilton and Verstappen that was a major inflection point for both teams. For Mercedes (Hamilton’s team) the belief was that Hamilton could hold off Verstappen for a lap on old tires given they would have a handful of lapped cars separating them. Why risk a problem in the pits when it wouldn’t be necessary? Why risk letting Verstappen get ahead—because if Mercedes would have stopped for tires Red Bull would have obviously stayed out, putting Verstappen ahead of Hamilton. For Red Bull (Verstappen’s team) they had absolutely nothing to lose and more or less got a free pit stop for fresh tires since the course was under caution and they knew Verstappen needed a miracle (and more or less voiced that on the radio) to get around all the lapped cars in time. Of course, both teams were screaming at the steward on the radio in real time—why this is allowed I have no idea. Red Bull had nothing to lose by lobbying the race director to flip flop on his decision knowing Mercedes was out there on worn out tires—politics 101—but again, both teams reacted based off the initial feedback from the director about how the restart would be handled… And who knows how Mercedes was arguing the opposite to influence the initial call by race control? That ultimately doesn’t matter. What I’m objectively critiquing here is the initial call that went out about how lapped cars would be handled for all of the teams. This is the only actionable decision making information the race teams had at this time. Whether Masi made the right call on the lappers initially is irrelevant—that has more to do with his understanding of the rules and is a separate conversation that needs to happen. Masi made a call as a race manager and teams reacted accordingly. Then he changed the call at the last second. That’s wrong.

So, when at the last second the race steward unexpectedly let only selected lap cars through (a-hem…again, not legal based on my understanding) the strategy for one team was totally undermined. This effectively put the two fastest cars head to head in literally the last seconds before the green flag, but one was on fresh soft tires and the other was on worn out hard tires. I’m sorry, but that shit just ain’t right. I humbly ask you here to remove fandom from the equation and look at the situation objectively.

Of course, the Mercedes team has protested and blah blah blah and the rest will be history—and nothing can change the outcome and what we saw go down in real time. I guess one thing that really bothers me about this is how blatantly unethical it was. A race steward cannot flip-flop on a critical decision in real time because teams have already made race-determining decisions based off the original feedback given. You can’t walk that back without screwing someone in a strategic game. Something that really stuck in my craw as a former small-time dirt track racer was when the steward said “that’s motor car racing” to the Mercedes principal after the race. It’s hard for me to believe this race steward has ever been a race driver—I could be wrong, though—couldn’t find that info online. We say “that’s a racing incident” or “that’s racing” in the U.S.—And that exclusively refers to shit that happens on track between drivers. I’ve been involved in many “racing incidents”—most of them end with broken equipment and pissed off people. We saw “racing incidents” between these two drivers on track all year that race control did weigh on on—after the fact. This obviously also impacted the outcome of this championship, but in those instances we all saw what went down on track before race control did anything to impact points outcomes. Race control also had the benefit of replay to reflect on their decision to insure it was correct. What happened at the end of this race was pre-meditated meddling. That is not “motor car racing”— that is unethical race management by the steward (I’m not going to go as far as using the the C word here, but yeah pretty much). This is the worst possible scenario for drivers because it’s demoralizing and ultimately undermines their ability to truly own their victories, which is what they get paid the big bucks to do.

Again, this is just stupid racing and there’s so much else going on in the world that’s more important, but I had to exercise this in writing this because it kept popping into my head over and over again and I want it out. I think it’s probably because it’s a metaphor for so many other injustices in our world when unqualified or unethical people are put into positions of power—or are influenced politically by other power entities. Ethics and fairness seem to go out the window. If you’re going to ask the drivers put their lives on the line to put on a show, respect the race (even if the outcome isn’t as sexy as it could be for the fans or tv ratings), be steady with decisions, and stay the eff out of the way. I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff about this driver or that driver getting robbed (most of them live in Monaco and earn lots of money—I think they’ll be ok), but even though this outcome was stimulating it was the fans that ultimately got robbed. F1 isn’t the WWE. Stuff like this does nothing but undermine the integrity of the sport and insult the drivers in my humble opinion.

Since F1 dropped the ball on this, I’d say let’s put Hamilton and Verstappen in a 5 lap head to head shootout at the Chili Bowl Nationals to decide it once and for all, but that’s just me. 






 

🏎 + 📒 + 📖 + 🧾

Campania—Napoli & Pompeii

As seen on an instagram feed near you 👆


(Napoli)


(Pompeii)

all the powerful and vibrant experiences all the time…

Yes, we at the pizza—and yes, it was that good. And yes, we took photos of the pizza, but you won’t find any of them here. Truth is, every flavor we experienced in Campania was as strong and vibrant as the incredible food. That said, I’d say not all the flavors we experienced were particularly appetizing, but strong and vibrant—absolutely!

Since I posted the photos of Napoli first I’ll start there. Napoli might be the most unique city I’ve ever visited. Everything about it is in your face. Everything is moving fast all the time. And if you stop on the street for any amount of time you’re going to be in someone’s way … and they’re going to let you know about it. Not it a mean way, just in a matter-of-fact GTF out of my way hand gesture, yell, or horn beep. I’ve never seen scooters ridden the way I’ve seen them ridden in Napoli. They make scooter riders in Roma look tame. Pitch dark, 70 KMH down wet, slippery cobble stone streets blowing blind intersections without much more than a beep on the horn for warning. Cars parked on on the sidewalks so there’s nowhere to walk but in the narrow streets—you get the idea. In our exploration of the city we found very few places to step back and take things in. That’s tough because there is just so damn much to look at. The city screams at you from every direction. I underestimated what it would be like until we flew over it on the way in. Once I saw the scale and density of the place I knew we were in for an experience. My Italian is nowhere near where it should be after living in Italy for almost a year, but I was grateful for the language skills I did have—and even more grateful for Amanda’s superior skills—we worked well as a team to communicate and make our way around the city. Napoli is full of vibrant colors, personalities, street art, etc…but there’s also a lot of darkness that can be felt there. Even the stones the roads and many of the building are made of are dark in color—I suspect this is because of the volcanic activity in the area, but I’d need to confirm that. There was a strong Memento Mori vibe and we got the feeling that people were ok with living fast and dangerously. It was both attractive and exhausting at the same time—like a candle burning at both ends.

Not surprisingly, those strong vibes carried over into Pompeii ruins. This was an absolutely incredible experience that far surpassed both mine and Amanda’s expectations. We took a 45-minute Circumvesuviana train from Napoli to the site of the ruins—this was efficient, but super crowded. The scale of the city and how well it was preserved was unbelievable. So much so, that I found it very easy to imagine having lived there…and while it’s not the same at all I think the ongoing global pandemic made what happened there feel somehow more plausible and real. The last image in the photo layout is a view of Pompeii with Vesuvius (Vesuvio) looming in the background. It’s so easy to imagine a thriving city, especially after having just come from Napoli, where the specter of Vesuvio is always there on the horizon. Amanda and I were hypothesizing maybe that’s where the live fast and dangerously vibes we felt were coming from? Or maybe it was just Vesuvio projecting that on to us? Either way, the trip was a shocking contrast to our day to day here in the coutryside north of Venice, although we more or less have our own man-made Vesuvio here with the NATO airbase nearby. Bring out the Memento Mori, people.

I was hoping to post these earlier, but I’m glad I finally got the opportunity to process the photos and reflect a bit on our experiences in Campania. I hope we get to go back soon—there is so much more we want to explore. That’s all for now—Ciao.

📸 + 🚶‍♂️ + 🌈

When a sketch gets its wings: coffee & culture edition

I goofily drew this in my sketchbook the other day and just wanted to make it a thing, so here it is—before and after! P.S. It’s about more than just coffee—maybe more about contrasting ideas of our collective notions of intensity and taste (taste…when it comes to flavor, economy and style). For what it’s worth, I love espresso, but I have also been known to drink gas station coffee in the U.S. when it’s all that’s available—maybe I’m not the one to trust with these delicate matters of taste 😀 —Ciao!

☕️ + 🤔

Loading 120 Film (the hard way):

I few days ago I was removing and loading film into my Yashicamat 124G and thought it would be fun to document the process as a piece of my “the hard way series” on instagram. I also posted the images above as examples of the stark clarity 120 format film can yield due to its larger size. This is only the second installment in the THW series—loading film is a companion to the more extensive screenprinting demo I made about a year ago. These are all just shot raw with my phone with no real editing or rehearsal, I think they’re rough, but fun to make and share. It’s always a fun challenge to verbally walk through a process in a way that makes it easy and fun for someone to follow.

📸 + 👋

Facebook Co. changes name to Meta

my brief, imperfect thoughts on a very imperfect situation

I originally posted this on my Instagram and wanted to make it a part of my archive here. That said, this is my opinion and I respect if yours is different.

The thing about facebook’s meta mark is how flexible it is—easy to work into secondary applications…like this little piece of immaturity above from my sketchbook. The thing is, seeing it on my WhatsApp and IG load screens was kinda chilling. People will gradually accept the name change and we’ll all get on with it—and I can see why they would want to change it as an umbrella brand for their products. But it’s a big deal when a company this big and with this much sway just up and hits the “delete everything” switch. Admittedly—I do that sometimes on IG because of my complex sharing relationship with this platform going back to the skeuomorphic polaroid frame days—Facebook acquiring the platform made things even more complex. I’m one dude in a sea of users—this is no excuse. I depend on messenger and WhatsApp to communicate with my family as someone living overseas—fact is these platforms work better than traditional phone services. I thought long and hard on this and I’m not getting off platforms like WhatsApp and IG now because I was here before FB was (this, however is subject to change). That said, changing the name / logo doesn’t fix anything and I feel it’s insulting to users because they can see through the gimmicks in the launch materials outlining how amazing the ill-appropriated metaverse will be (or already is I suppose). What it really is: a scary, sort of band-aided patched together distorted “reality.” Ugh. I don’t want to be a part of it.

If they wanted to make it right they would have made this entire relaunch a come to Jesus convo with users about their mistakes as platform developers and our mistakes as users—from the beginning. And believe me, we users are culpable in this thing as well. I was a freshman in college when the native Facebook platform launched—it was an exciting, naive, and stupid time. Nobody knew because there was really no context, but now we have over a decade of context—and it ain’t pretty. I can see it was a ton of work to put all this together and it’s no surprise it’s good because really talented people worked on it. It feels like a desperate, borrowed new coat of paint and not a strip down rebuild, which is badly needed IMO. My aim is not to offend any people I’ve known that work, or have worked at the company. I know you all work hard and it’s oh so easy to spout opinions.

🤔 + ✍️ + 📱