02-19-2017  10:44 pm      •     

Rupert Kinnard is an unsung hero of Portland's artistic community.
A former nationally-renowned cartoonist with his characters Diva and the Brown Bomber, he is fondly remembered as one of the country's few creators of syndicated Black comic-book characters – a distinction made even more pointed by the fact that he is an icon in the gay community.
Now Kinnard's career in graphic design is headed for another innovation: an electronic memoir that includes art, personal stories, and memorabilia that can be published in a book or even on the Internet with videos and music.
He calls it the Life Capsule Project, and he hopes it will catch on with anyone interested in setting down their own life story.
"When I think in terms of trying to encourage people to do this type of thing with the technology

 
Rupert Kinnard's self portrait flanked by his characters the Diva and the Brown Bomber.

that's available, I think of parents – if they're able to put together a life capsule I think that's a great gift for their kids," he says. "I think of grandparents being able to do it on some level.
"So I'm presenting my life capsule the way I prefer to do it, but I think it would be real interesting for other people to explore the different formats to do the same thing."
Born and raised in Chicago, Kinnard got his start in newspaper at the Chicago Sun-Times in the early 1970s, where his first cartoon was published.
He went back to school to earn a degree in graphic design, where he learned how to lay out publications and posters, and eventually moved to the West Coast, where he worked both as an award-winning newspaper designer – including at The Skanner News — and a self-employed cartoonist drawing topical panels about the day's political issues with his characters Diva and the Brown Bomber.

 

Kinnard's life took another sharp turn in 1996, when a car accident in Mississippi left him paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair.
Together with his companion of many years, Scott Stapley, Kinnard returned to his vintage home in Portland's Lloyd District and built a new life as the proprietor of a guest house – but his gifts in graphic design still prompt him to create artwork, tell his own story of transformation, and encourage others to do the same.
"On the occasion of the Brown Bomber's 30th anniversary I had a big party – it was a 10, 20, 30 party," Kinnard said. "It was 10 years since being in the wheelchair, 20 years since living in Portland, and 30 years of the Brown Bomber."
To celebrate on a more personal level, Kinnard created a giant timeline of his life that he had printed onto a five-foot posterboard for the party. The timeline, and his friends' reaction to it, were the genesis for the Life Capsule Project.
"Years ago I became really enamored of quite a number of cartoonists creating graphic novels," he says. "There is also an upsurge of people doing graphic memoirs, where they tell their life story in terms of comics — I really wanted to do something like that but I just never could get up the energy to do it."
Kinnard was so energized with his timeline that he shared it others to get them excited about doing timelines of their lives.
"Especially with the digital age, you could scan photos and you could bring all of these elements together, into a visual document," he says. "It was really nice to get a sense of what happened when I graduated from high school, and went to college, and the music and the movies that were popular – it was just a really fun project."
The Life Capsule Project, as computer-based rather than paste and paper, has the potential to evolve into an electronic book, with even more kinds of electronic components such as sound and video.
"It's been really, really thrilling, almost as though I've been part of creating something that's very new," Kinnard says. "I'm bringing together scrap book, photo album, timeline, oral history, graphic novel.
"More than anything I really want to encourage people to look at the scope of their life in a certain way," he says. "I think in terms of the project that I'm working on as a gift to my mom, because I'm my mom's only son, and I'd like to encapsulate my life in a certain way and present it to her – all this information that she's going to look through it and say, I had no idea, you didn't tell me that."
Kinnard is currently working to get his Life Capsule published as a book, as well as an online resource. He's also brainstorming the content for seminars to teach others how to create electronic documents of their lives and "really just try to bring out the creativity in people."

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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