What Would Shaft Do?

Only a few days ago, I posted a new year’s resolution promising that if I was ever in a tight situation, I would ask myself “What would Shaft do?” We’re barely a week into the new year, and thanks to my being sacked, I already have to invoke the name of the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks. Solid.

In both the 1971 version starring Richard Roundtree as John Shaft and the 2000 version starring Samuel Jackson as the original Shaft’s beloved nephew with the same name, both got out from under “The Man” and went indie. Roundtree Shaft was self-employed as a private invesrtigator; Jackson Shaft was with the NYPD and leaves the force to carry out some bad-ass justice. Unlike me, neither were fired, and I merely handed in my passcard rather than do something explosively cool like Jackson Shaft hurling his police badge as if it were a shuriken (that’s a ninja throwing star) at the wall behind the judge. My point remains: both took the bad-ass indie route, stood up for what was right, and pimp-slapped a few jive turkeys (in the 1971 version) and wack-ass beeyatches (in the 2000 version) along the way. Word.

So, in the spirit of Shaft, I have decided to go indie for a while. Lots of people have started to pay back the lots of money they owe me, the severance pay I got was adequate, and I can live for a while without having to go to an office (especially one in a loathsome suburban hell). I’ve become the second programmer for Peekabooty, an ambitious and much-hyped (and nearly complete) application designed to help people see Web sites that they otherwise would be unable to access due to their country’s censorship of the Web. It does so (this is the really simplified version, mind you) by creating a peer-to-peer network of users that act as what we geeks like to call a distributed proxy server, a convoy of computers that pass web site information to each other, thereby bypassing ‘Net-censoring machines. It was one of the highlights of the last DefCon conference and due to its late delivery, made Wired’s top ten vaporware list for 2001. I will be assisting the lead programmber, Drunken Master, in getting Peekabooty in shape in time for CodeCon in February (and probably H2K2 in July), where we will present it to the hacker community and to the media. It will be an excellent opportunity to continue polishing my mad skillz and getting some street and hacker cred at the same time. I’ll also be dropping some phat beats on the squeezebox while I’m there. Damn right.

If living well is the best revenge, then going indie and working on Peekabooty, a high-profile freedom-of-speech tool for the ‘Net, is like giving my former employers a Shaft-style “up yours, baby!” And I can dig it.

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