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THE SOCIAL DESIGNER: truth or dare ~ Yara Al Adib
THE SOCIAL DESIGNER: truth or dare
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THE SOCIAL DESIGNER: truth or dare
By bazaar staff , January (2012) edition of bazaar
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Jaye Sonia
Jaye Sonia

How would your mother describe you in one word?


From a young age, I was very extraverted and outgoing. By the time I was six, my mother was convinced I was going to follow my grandfather – who was a US Senator – into politics. Obviously, I didn’t. I am, however, still a bit of a talker (and I still think my mother hopes I’ll be president one day).

Lucky for most people, I learned to channel a lot of that energy toward more creative ends and ventured into writing during my late teens. So, while I may not command stadiums full of people with my elegant speeches (Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?), I may still unleash a few books on the unsuspecting World of Geekdom.

[Is it too early to fold my hands together like Dr. Evil and quote Pinky and the Brain at this point in the interview?]

How would you describe your mother in one word?


While my mother was present for a good part of late my teens, it was really my father who raised my sister and me. I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea… I love my mother dearly and we talk frequently, I’m just a lot closer to my father.

What is the most insane question you’ve ever been asked?

Can I take the dare on this one? (I’m just kidding).

That’s not an easy question. I mean, what’s your metric for something like this? Asking me to paint myself blue and dance through the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras might strike a few people here as crazy, but would be perfectly normal for most of the Krew of Shenanigans (service industry folks from New Orleans…)

You know, one man’s insanity is another man’s idea for a cartoon series...

In all seriousness, I don’t think I get asked a lot of insane questions. In fact, the more I look back, the harder it is to find an insane question among the lot. Sure, I’ve had some odd questions based on a variety of misconceptions – both about me and about Americans – but nothing that I’d call outright insane. There have been some strange ones, though.

I remember when I first moved out here to Kuwait and a few people back home asked me if I was living in a tent on a compound. I still had yet to perfect conveying the bulk of my sarcasm with a single glance, but I made every effort as I replied, “You’re not serious, right?” Sadly, they were.

There was also the time someone asked me if all Americans drove like they did on Cops and if the roads were as dangerous as they saw on all those TV specials about high-speed chases. I had to laugh at that one. And no, not all Americans are crazy drunks having shoot-outs with the cops.

What is the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?

That would have to be the time I met Trent Reznor (lead singer of the band Nine Inch Nails). I was living in New Orleans, La, and a few friends and I went out to see one of the Mardi Gras parades uptown on Tchoupitoulas (try pronouncing that!)

Anyways, the four of us (my buddy, his wife, my girlfriend, and I) were sitting at the Buddha Bar across the street from Nothing Records and getting ready for the parade. Being a long time fan of Nine Inch Nails, I kept joking I was going to go over, knock on the door, and invite the band over for drinks. My friend, Tom, laughed and called my bluff.

Not to be undone so easily, I got up and started across the street. I was almost to the door when the cops pulled up and started trying to move a truck that had stalled in front of the studio. I walked up to see if they needed help and, a few seconds later, the front door of the studio opened.

Out walked Trent Reznor.

Needless to say, we got the truck moved and I got the chance to chat with Mr. Reznor. It was both a spontaneous moment and a surreal one – the type of moment that you don’t forget.

What word in the English or Arabic language do you wish you had invented?


I’m a big fan of self-transformation and that word has always spoken to me. I think that’s one of the things that attracted me to RPGs, comics, and most of mythology in general, as well. The word becoming is intimately tied to the hero’s journey.

In part, I blame Joseph Campbell. He wrote a little book on comparative myth called The Hero With a Thousand Faces in which I first noticed that theme. 

The more I looked into the historic art of our world, the more I saw it. It didn’t matter if I was watching A Game of Thrones or reading Sandman – I kept finding this very common theme. It was that theme that kept me glued to my seat as I watched Frodo and Sam push into the darkness of Mordor or Luke Skywalker confront his father. It was the potential to transform oneself, to overcome our weakness.

And if you ask me, it’s at the heart of every hero’s journey.

Where would you like to live? / What is your dream retirement location?

That’s a hard one. I travel a lot and I keep finding a lot of places I say I’d settle down in. As a result, I’m still sort of looking around.

When I was in South Africa in 2009, I was in love with both Muizenberg and Glencairn. In 2007, I was in love with Berlin. In 2010, I wanted to live in Athens. I almost moved to Seattle, instead. A few months ago, it was Koh Samui, Thailand.

I guess I’m a bit indecisive when it comes to settling down on this tiny little planet of ours. What I do know is this – wherever I finally do settle down, it’ll need a large dose of tranquil green and better be close to a large body of water.

What is the first famous quote that comes to your mind?

“You wish to be liked. I wish simply to be. One day you will know what that means, perhaps. And you will smile. Not against me. But with me.”

John Fowles wrote that in his supremely excellent book, The Magus. I love that book and, as far as fiction goes, it may be the best piece of literature I’ve ever read. I think it may be a little too honest for some folks. To me, it strikes at the heart of the human condition. It speaks to the essential in us and, at the end of the day, paints all the superficial things in their proper colors. It also challenges a lot of conventions that we accept as common, forcing us to look into the mirror. 

What animal best describes the kind of partner you’d be interested in?

An owl. My ideal girl will have to be wise, commanding, and nocturnal. That doesn’t mean the sort of girl that dislikes the sun altogether (sorry Twilight fans), but one that is just as comfortable at night as she is by day. She’d also have to be a geeky gamer that loves to travel as much as I do.

What do you miss about your childhood?

When I was younger, there was a sense of wonder that accompanied every new thing or adventure. Every horizon had a mystery and the older I get – and I think this is common for a lot of us – the fewer mysteries there are to uncover.

I think that sense of wonder is important and it’s what keeps us, as a people, dreaming. When we forget to dream, we die a little. I don’t want to live in a dead world.

Give me wonder, give me mystery, and give me beauty.

If you could change your name, what would you change it to?

I don’t know that I would, to be honest. I’m pretty happy with the name my parents gave me – although I do go by the shortened version and have for a long time. I think if I had to pick a name that was serious and common (I don’t think people take anyone named Dr. Awesome all that serious), it would have to be Seth.

Of course, Dr. Awesome would be a pretty cool name to have.

How would you describe your handshake in one word?

You guys and your adjectives! I swear! I think my handshake is pretty firm, but not overmuch. I’m not the sort of person that analyzes handshakes, though. I’m more of a “look me in the eye” person. I like to meet people that smile with their eyes and you just don’t get that from a handshake.

What is the toughest part of your character?

I don’t think I always listen as well as I should. It’s not that I don’t listen to what others have to say or that I don’t respect their ideas – it’s simply that I’m pretty self-involved and I’m simply not paying attention. So, I have to make a concentrated effort to actually listen to others.

Luckily, this is something I’m aware of and doesn’t hinder me too much.

Who is your favorite ?

The late Gary Gygax! Known as the father of role-playing games, Mr. Gygax is the principle creator of the famous game Dungeons & Dragons (as well dozens of novels and games). If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have things like The Elder Scrolls, The Legend of Zelda, or World of Warcraft.

Sadly, he passed in March of 2008.

What in the world do you least desire?

I’m not particularly fond of pain. I don’t think most of us are, either. It has its place, though. So, while I don’t go out of my way to suffer, I think some pain makes us stronger and we should embrace our challenges. I think of this as “good pain” (going to the gym) as opposed to “bad pain” (getting hit by a car).

So, I try to evaluate most situations in this light, especially if I’m avoiding something. If it’s a challenge that I associate with good pain, I might put it off for a day or so, but I eventually make myself do it.

Avoiding “bad pain” is really a no-brainer! (Really, does anyone go out of his or her way to get hit by a car?)

What do you think is lacking in the world, which would make the world a better place?

This is one of those questions where I think most people attempt to solve the world’s problems and eliminate poverty, war, and ignorance. I may sound a little cynical, but I think all of those are issues intimately tied to negative human traits that are all singlehandedly tied to an all too common problem – hypocrisy.

If you ask me, the world would be a much better place if people simply took a little personal responsibility for their actions. I’m pretty accepting when it comes to things we can’t change in our lives. But when it comes to things we do have power to change – you know, things like helping each other, being safe, or even being polite – we should live by the words we speak.

We have far more power in our lives than some people would have us believe.

Why do you think most girls/guys like you?

I think it’s a combination of factors, really.

I’m very much an individual, so it’s easy for me to wander off and just do my own thing. I dig being me. I’m a geek, a gamer, and a writer – and I embrace all of that without accepting the social models most people tag us with. In fact, I think that’s one of my more charming qualities. I get The Big Bang Theory without being subject to the social label it suggests. We’re not all socially awkward and I’m a perfect example of that. In fact, I think I’m a little rebellious because of those labels, too.

I’m definitely not afraid to mess with peoples’ stereotypes.

Finish this sentence: “Happiness is a thing called…”

...being Jaye

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Jaye's article
Posted By: Aunt Jean on 2012-02-13 01:00:18
As your Aunt, I don't know you as well as I would like to, given distance, as well as family dynamics, but I found this article very interesting! I talked to your Mom yesterday and she had just received her copy ou sent her. Very thoughtful! You're a very bright, intelligent man and God Bless You!
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