University of St. Thomas Campus News
- Grad, Family Advancing Catholic and Intellection Traditions One Comic Angel at a Time
A pair of angels lean back against a cloud, hands folded behind their heads and look upward like two 6-year-olds naming animals from passing cumulonimbus on a summer afternoon.
“Now that your human is safely in heaven,” one angel says to the other, “For old time’s sake, do you ever wish he’d do something stupid?”
So starts Louis Hall’s book of “Angelic Twaddle Comics,” a collection of comics the ’88 grad and his children have put together that prompts consideration of all kinds of things, really – life on Earth, guidance from the Catholic tradition, history, philosophy – and all in the accessible and easy-to-digest form of comics.
“It’s a great way to get people to think about harder questions,” Hall said. “It’s easy not to want to pick up a big book to consider these things; it’s nice to have an easier platform for some of these harder ideas.”
The idea for the comics grew from conversations Hall had raising six children where – no surprise for a studio art major – he realized providing visual context might help make difficult topics easier to digest. What started as a blog became an ongoing family project, with Hall’s kids involved in everything from topic brainstorming to editing.
“It’s been a lot of fun understanding more as you get older, or going and asking Dad what things mean so you understand it,” said 17-year-old Gemma Hall, who is hoping to go into dental work some day. “It’s been very helpful as we’ve grown up.”
Hall said much of the comic’s content and general spirit has been informed by his years at St. Thomas and the intellectual curiosity it instilled in him.
“When the kids need help understanding, it helps me to understand things better myself,” Hall added. “I’ll try to read from the people that have gone before me to help understand things. It’s almost better than journaling for me; I can put it into an image form and then put it in a context for others to understand.”
With the first set of comics published and plenty more on the way there are plenty of possibilities for the future of Angelic Twaddle. The Hall family already has felt the benefits of doing such a project together, making the impact it has outside of themselves a bonus.
“To follow through on the mission of St. Thomas … we’re trying to do good in society. We’re trying to advance a Catholic tradition, a curiosity and a stronger framework about life,” Hall said. “Even though it’s a comic book, young people and older people can look at this stuff and shape the ideas that carry them through life.”
- The Scroll and Humans of St. Thomas: ‘NJ’ (aka Nick Jordan Meyerson)
Many of you (thank you!) are submitting magnificent tips about countless cool humans for features in the Humans of St. Thomas (HOST) series. Too fun! While I hope to meet all of them eventually, last week I felt an inexplicable pull to simply sit in the beautiful, sun-drenched atrium of Anderson Student Center. I didn’t know how to go about finding a random HOST victim without seeming weird and creepy; I wanted to just strike up conversation with someone – anyone – and spontaneously persuade him or her to reveal his/her humanness to me (“please speak right into my mini old-school voice recorder, circa 1995? Thank you very much.”).
So, there I sit on the T’s side of the atrium, feeling awkward and conspicuous when out of nowhere, just moments before I would tell my extroverted self this might be a really bad idea, along comes “NJ.” Another student with whom I am chatting greets him and he reciprocates with a gracious, heartwarming smile, but he keeps pace toward the fine aroma of the nearby stir-fry station. To the student I know, I mumble-blurt: “Help me get that guy back here!” “Nick … Hi! Carol here. Do you have a minute?” as I awkwardly make visible my vintage voice recorder.
I have no idea why Nick walked by at that perfect moment. But in the next 28 minutes, I was intensely grateful for not abandoning the plan to find a random human because I met this crazy-cool inhabitant of our UST community. He is a junior music business and business administration double major, a performer, a freakishly mature and soulful young man, an only child raised by his single mom, a guy who spreads kindness and love with intention, and a budding songwriter/musician whose music buddies call him NJ.
Where are you from? Give us a little family background on NJ! I grew up west metro in a small town called Delano. With just me and my mom – just single parent swag. She’s really cool.
Did you always know you’d be a musician? Since I was little I always wanted to perform or do music, but I just probably didn’t want to admit it to myself. In high school I was like, “Oh Mom, I think this is what I want to do.” And she was like, “Duh!” … So when I was 18 I got back into songwriting and piano. I wanted to learn how to do the whole thing. And I found out, you know, nobody’s going to do this for you. You just do it yourself – and connect with the people who will help you shine.
Was St. Thomas your first choice? Yeah! For some strange reason it just bloomed out of nowhere and felt like this might be the place. So, I’m here, kind of uncovering the purpose. You get little glimmers of, “Oh, it makes sense why I’m here.”
What about best moments in your four years at UST? Within the first three days I met one of my really good friends. Her name is Nyasia, who is also a great musician. She was the first person I kind of grew and connected with. I thought she was so cool; we just met at this strange crossroads of our lives. So us colliding right at the start of our journeys at St. Thomas – I feel like was something really special and necessary.
Nyasia sounds pretty darn awesome. Nyasia is very important to me. … When you grow up with mixed descent, there is a societal pressure to pick and choose which parts of your culture to be put on display – as if I had to choose. All parts of my being are worthy of celebration. Still, I had always kind of felt like a weird, brown alien growing up – very displaced. (After meeting Nyasia) I now realized that I wasn’t the only one who got separated when our spaceship crashed on Earth. We now had each other to make up for lost time – to celebrate creativity, blackness and purpose.
Sounds like Nyasia has been an incredible life-changer for you – someone who helped you embrace your full, beautiful self? I’m more in love with her than I have been with anything in my life, because not only is she my best friend and my soul mate, but she and I share a dream together. Without Nyasia, there would be no Nick Jordan. (So, Scroll readers, Nyasia sounded so awesome that I quickly decided she must be our next HOST feature. Check back soon for more on her!)
Anything you cannot live without? Black socks.
What about something you can live without? Snapchat. I deleted it. That was my New Year’s thing.
What’s your dream? I have so many friends who are musicians, so when I think about my dream now I don’t dream it alone! I just love sharing stories and learning to get better and traveling together. Nyasia and I have this thing now – as long as we take a little step and get a little better, that’s what we’re working on. We call each other and just talk about our little steps getting better and better.
Tell me more about your instruments and what you love about your music. I sing and write songs. I write them all on piano. I love seventh chords and stuff. Seventh chords turn me on – they’re really sexy to me.
Three words that describe you? Lover. Learner. Professional Pokemon trainer – because I’m really good at Pokemon. Secret talent. I’m just really good. I’ll play anybody!
What you are working on right now? I’m almost done recording (after two years) what I consider to be my debut EP. I’ve put out stuff before, but it’s nothing compared to this. I’m so happy and proud of it, and it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ll just feel good – whatever happens. (EP denotes “extended play” – a term for a recording containing more music than a single, but usually too short to be called a full studio album or LP.)
Tell us more about this EP! “NJ” (the title) is going to be soulful. It’s eclectic in the sense that you have some tracks that have an older feel, and some that feel like they could be more like 2002.
Say more. Like the first single, which is called “Old School.” You’ve got your bass grooves. You’ve got live percussion. You’ve got Pharrell Williams influence (and) Neptune synth-strings. From start to finish, I just thought, this is my voice! I hope it’s catchy and I hope everyone thinks when they’re listening, “Yes, he wrote this,” because I did. (See the link at the end of this post for the debut of “Old School.” Nick, please remember us when you’re on The Voice!)
Could you tell us the target release for “NJ”? I’m hoping the EP is all done by the summer. At this point it has to be! It’s got to be!
Do you have fears? I’m afraid of fear – of fear that paralyzes you and not being able to move past that.
What about things that bug you about other humans? I don’t like ego. I know that’s kind of broad. Ego is like, “Only me, only me.” Especially with music – you can see right through that.
You mentioned first loving Nyasia for her radical ego-lessness! I think we spent our first day together sitting under a tree and discussing the liner notes of Justin Timberlake’s “Justified.” When it came to music making, she virtually had no ego and was so willing to teach me everything she knew. In her company, I felt understood.
The best advice you ever have received? Self-love is where everything starts. If you learn to love yourself you literally don’t have room for hate.
Your answer to: “If you had $100 and one hour to spend it, where would you go and what would you buy?” My friend who is in grad school is really stressed out, and I asked him if he was eating right. He said he didn’t really have time or money to buy good groceries right now. So I would just send him a check with a little list of ingredients and recipes.
What never fails to make you smile? Good smells! I thought for a bit I might want to get licensed in aromatherapy. My room smells like a paradise. I have a secret fragrance that I use that is totally top secret, but it smells like oceans and vanilla.
And if you could go anywhere in the world right now? Hawaii. I would ask for the best island.
What’s the first thing you’d pack? A swimsuit. Because you don’t need black socks there.
You’re hearing it here first: “Old School,” the debut single off Nick Jordan’s upcoming EP, “NJ,” coming later this year.
As always, I sure love hearing your tips about Humans of St. Thomas to feature in the future (firstname.lastname@example.org). And, fair warning, watch out Minneapolis campus: I’ve been hanging out downtown the last few weeks and chatting with many cool inhabitants in your hip ZIP code – but I’d sure would enjoy your thoughts about who I shouldn’t miss.
Special thanks to student Meredith Heneghan, the newest Scroll blogger, for helping capture and transcribe Nick’s interview.