I had been wanting to meet Joe DiStefano for a while. Yesterday, he finally responded to my message and invited me to a screening of a short film about Joe’s Steam Rice Roll where the filmmakers asked a small number of people to provide feedback on their work-in-progress. It’s a moving story about how Joe Rong took a great risk by focusing on serving the best possible rice rolls. Joe D appears in it as a superhero in this film. The production quality was very high; cinematography, sound, music, and editing all worked well together. I’m not sure where it will eventually be shown but I’m looking forward to seeing the final cut.
Joe D certainly has an aura of celebrity, not only on screen, but in person too. People who are driven by passion often have this appearance of obliviousness where everything except for the objects of their passion is a distraction. They seem to be always moving towards those objects as if they are being pulled magnetically. They make no apologies for what they love.
His attitude reminded me of John Cage, the American avant-garde composer. John unapologetically ignored current news. He refused to join any organizations regardless of the cause. He once said in an interview, “My notion of how to proceed in a society to bring change is not to protest the thing that is evil, but rather to let it die its own death ... I think that protests about these things, contrary to what has been said, will give it the kind of life that a fire is given when you fan it.” He wasn’t even anti-anti-organizations. In my conversations with him, current events never even came up; he just wanted to do what he loved.
Undoubtedly, many would accuse him of being irresponsible and ignorant since he couldn’t have lived the life he lived without others defending his political rights and freedoms. But at the same time, what would be the point of fighting for them, if nobody is taking full advantage of the hard-won rights and freedoms? It’s like the people who make a lot of money without having anything meaningful to spend it on. Isn’t the ultimate point of rights and freedoms to create a world worth living in?
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