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If yer a reporter looking for pictures and press releases, ye'll find some cool ones in the press kit. And feel free to use anything from anywhere on the site!

Classicals & LLC has appeared in these and other fine publications:

Check out the online New York Times article, in which they said:

...And whether the academics accept it or not doesn't matter; because the dialogue that's developed online on the subject of Joyce and the likes of Melville, Fitzgerald, Camus, Shakespeare, and Hemingway adds instantly to the understanding of literature simply because of the depth of the online debate. It is simply unprecedented. . .KillDevilHill.Com and two related sites -- Western Canon University and The Jolly Roger, two avowed pro-Western canon communities that make little room for modern literature -- teem with discussion, the kind that goes well beyond freshman lit 101. On the Mark Twain discussion board, a visitor wonders aloud about the "aspects of nature" in the Royal Nonesuch performance in Huckleberry Finn. There are arguments over William Shakespeare's childhood in the Shakespearean section. Over on the Herman Melville board, posters discuss Ahab's use of the sea chart as a controlling mechanism and Ishmael's artistic nature. --NYT Cybertimes, 12/5/97

THE JOLLY ROGER-- sighted in the Wall Street Journal:

Elliot McGucken decided to straddle the two worlds. After he earned doctoral degrees in physics and electrical engineering, Dr. McGucken considered himself "fortunate" to get a teaching job at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., and to continue his engineering research.

But then, last year, he won the Innovation Grants Competition sponsored by Merrill Lynch Forum, the virtual think tank of the financial-services company. The contest, now in its second year, gives out $150,000 in prizes for Ph.D.s, and their institutions, who find commercial applications for their research.

After winning the contest, he got to tour the New York Stock Exchange. Dr. McGucken caught the entrepreneurial bug. Eventually, he launched, an Internet company devoted to his longtime passions: writing and classical literature.

The Web site is filled with Dr. McGucken's poetry and commentary and discussion groups on classic literature. "It's all written in a classical context with a Generation X attitude," he says.

He sells ads to online vendors in fields ranging from life insurance to pantyhose and has a deal with that gives him a cut of sales generated by his site. The result: Dr. McGucken's Internet income now equals his academic salary. "And it's growing at a quicker rate," he says.

HE HAS RESISTED the siren call of big business, although he has talked to venture capitalists and he almost sold out to a larger company before that company was taken over. Dr. McGucken wouldn't mind being part of a larger site, but he doesn't want to be a larger company. "If I was to try to squeeze huge profits out of it to please venture capitalists, it would ruin the spirit of it," he says.

His sideline career, as currently constituted, doesn't require too much time. He hired an agency to sell ads and recruited volunteers to moderate discussion groups. "Once you start it up, it runs itself," he says.

Keeping "a lot of pokers in the fire," Dr. McGucken says, is a form of job security. Teaching jobs are scarce, and research funds can easily vanish.

THE JOLLY ROGER-- sighted in the Los Angeles Times:

The (Euripides) site is only a tiny part of a lavish virtual community known as the Jolly Roger, which was created by Elliott McGucken, a physics professor and researcher who lives in Chapel Hill, NC. An aspiring writer himself, he built a richly detailed maze of discussion boards and chat rooms devoted to the classic works of Western culture. McGucken envisioned the site purely as a gathering place for literature lovers, not corner-cutting college kids, and he's been forced to create some password-protected parallel rooms for the true aficionados. Yet he's stoic about the invasion of the term-paper trollers. On one hand, the trafficking at least shows that teachers are still assigning the Western works he holds dear. On the other? "Not everyone is reading them," he says, ("but we do get a lot of emails from sailors upon our sites thanking us for introducing them to Moby Dick and other Great Books. And that's what it's all about.")*

THE JOLLY ROGER-- sighted in Book Magazine:

Ex-prof takes love of literature online
At just thirty years of age, Elliot McGucken is already an ex-professor. After earning a Ph.D. in physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and getting a teaching post at nearby Davidson College, McGucken quit to devote all his time to--what else?--his Web site. is, according to McGucken, a "classical portal," a huge index of chat rooms, essays and poetry--each with a literary theme. A quick tour reveals a number of McGucken's own poems as well as live discussions for fans of everyone from Daniel Quinn to Herman Melville to Sylvia Plath to Joseph Heller.

"I want to bring the classics to life for my generation, a generation that's lost touch with literature," McGucken says. His use of the term "classics" is pretty loose. Any visitor who wants to start a chat room on his or her favorite author is welcome, and the site even has a few unapologetically philosophical discussions (like "Women's Fear of Sexuality").

McGucken considers himself a bit of a rebel, what with quitting academia and loving literature despite his scientific background. And he's definitely attempting to defy the stereotype of Generation Xers as disinterested layabouts. Hence's pirate theme. It also ties in nicely with North Carolina's Outer Banks, one of McGucken's favorite haunts and the destination of many of his childhood vacations.

THE JOLLY ROGER-- As reviewed by AOL, the Global Online Directory, and Excite.

The Jolly Roger: Go here. Do not pass go. Whatever your tastes or politics, it's tough not to enjoy this smart-alecky, skillfully written and provocative online magazine. Literary, generational and plain-old politics take it on the chin from this threesome.

THE JOLLY ROGER--As Reviewed in Creekwalker Magazine

Glancing up at the clock on the wall above my computer, I take note of the time. It's 2:00 am but I'm wide-awake, cruising the internet aboard the Jolly Roger (, "flagship of Grungeservative Renaissance" - a cyber-frigate that hoisted its skull & crossboned flag in March of 1995 and has since been cruising the seas surrounding the cultural bastions of the liberal academic/media complex, looking for a good skirmish. Its mission - to plunder, attack, reason, beckon, mock, lampoon, and otherwise fire well-stocked cannonades over the startled sensibilities of an entire generation of websurfing landlubbers whose minds are aswirl in the opaqueness of a powerful nemesis, post-modern relativism. Originating in America's guilded Universities, this living, insidious, relativistic fog has slowly seeped across the cultural landscape to where it now influences a significant segment of the general American consciousness. What makes the voyage of the Jolly Roger fascinating is that it is piloted by a band of Princeton graduates and former grunge rockers, a real-life Dead Poet's Society with a dash of Robert Louis Stevenson and old-fashioned American values thrown in the mix.-- Of Crossbones, Good Lit and Life on the Bow: Drake Raft and the Crew of the Jolly Roger,
by Taylor Stinson

THE JOLLY ROGER-- As reviewed in the 1997 Internet Yellow Pages.

The Jolly Roger: Come aboard for an exciting literary journey. Guests will find a meeting place for literary professionals and creative writers. Features include dissertations, ghost stories, poetry, speeches, sonnets and fiction. Come and sail the cyberseas as full-screen graphics and light-hearted storytelling guide you through. (Five stars for content.)

THE JOLLY ROGER-- As reviewed by The National Association of Scholars.

The Jolly Roger: The Fastest-Sailing Literary Movement On The WWW. Featuring the New Literature. Brought to you by the BeaconWay Press. A must visit (winner of many awards) with links to other worthwhile sites. The Jolly Roger Constitution begins:

"Ahoy mate! Welcome aboard The Jolly Roger, the electronic flagship for Beaconway Press! All crew members aboard this brigantine are united in their quest to revive Great Literature, such as that which has been banned for promoting violence against whales. New contemporary works written in the context of the Great Books will play a fundamental role in reforming society and saving our institutions from being subject to further decadence, or something. We believe that no medium is superior to that of the printed word in nurturing the rational part of the human soul. . . ."


Davidson professor mixes classic literature with technology

Dr. Elliot McGucken could easily be mistaken for one of the students he teaches as a physics professor at Davidson College. PHOTO/B.J. BUTLER

McGucken's literary side comes to life on his Internet site titled jollyroger. com. PHOTO/COURTESY ELLIOT MCGUCKEN

By B. J. Butler

Seeing him ride through campus on his bike, many might mistake him for a well-dressed student. Only the necktie gives him away, despite the buzz-cut hair, khakis, book bag and boyish face. Few would guess him to be a professor, much less a self-styled nineties Renaissance Man for Generation X, featured in articles in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, just to name a few.

He is one of Davidson's newest physics professors, Dr. Elliot McGucken. A Princeton University graduate, the 29-year-old also has Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Physics from UNC-Chapel Hill.

The physics professor has what at first glance seems to be an alter ego, as well. His career and education background both in science, McGucken is also a poet and lover of classical literature.

He carries that passion to the extreme, however, circulating it to the world in general via his successful Internet site titled, which boasts 2 million page views per month to over 150,000 unique monthly visitors, says McGucken. The New York Times called it "simply unprecedented," and said it "teems with discussion, the kind that goes well beyond freshman lit 101."

AOL advertises McGucken's site as "smart-alecky, skillfully written and provocative." It further states, "Literary, generational and plain-old politics take it on the chin from ("

"They're both similar pursuits," says McGucken of his dichotomous interests - physics and literature. "Both try to describe something. It's how you think about things."

The prof says most of his physics students probably are unaware of his literary side.

"I pretty much only talk about physics in class, as there's so much to be learned. A couple of students saw me wearing a t-shirt in the gym one day and said they'd heard about it before. One of them said that her high school English teacher had mentioned the site," says McGucken.

Site reflects aura of N.C. coast…

"Oak planks of reason, riveted with rhyme, designed to voyage across all time" greets the visitor to the site.

"It's really a community site," says the Ohio native. "There are a lot of volunteers that keep it going - it's the world's classical portal. It's a labor of love more than anything."

The name of the site embodies the "aura and romance" inherent in the pirate history of North Carolina's Outer Banks area, he says, a favorite destination for the professor. Having vacationed there in summers during childhood with his parents, both college professors, he developed a deep appreciation for the area's rich legacy and timeless beauty.

"It was a lot more overhead (in time and effort) a few years ago. Now, it's more self-supporting," adds the site's creator. Ads sold to on-line vendors and an arrangement with giving him a cut of book sales spurred by his sites, brings some financial compensation for the young professor. He even had an offer from a large company, which he refused, to purchase the site., which has grown into a series of literary sites and forums for discussions, was actually established by McGucken and friends during his graduate studies days at UNC-Chapel Hill to advertise their band in which he played guitar and sang back up. He and others wrote poetry and prose for the site, as well. Unfortunately the band didn't enjoy the success of McGucken's other pursuits.

"We read better than we sounded," he laughed. "I always loved the Great Books and reading the classics. The classics speak to all generations. It was the most ironic form of rebellion - that Generation X would promote the classics." Today's society can learn from Classic literature…

Obviously not your typical member of Generation X, McGucken, who has also written a yet-to-be-published book titled Unplugged, seems reluctant to embrace the moniker he admits includes him as a part of the 20-something age group.

"I understand a lot of the cynicism of my generation, but I feel I have a good handle on things," he admits. The tendency to find little meaning in words and reluctance to embrace any sort of commitment, traits often claimed to depict members of Generation X, do not describe this poet's nature, he says.

At home in Davidson, McGucken is enjoying living in the quaint college town and likes being near Lake Norman, where he wind surfs "when a storm is coming," he says. Since moving to North Carolina to attend UNC, he has spent summers windsurfing on the Outer Banks and it's a favorite hobby, along with playing tennis and camping and hiking in the mountains.

"The whole Lake Norman area is beautiful," McGucken says. "Living in North Carolina, you're so lucky to have so many prominent landmarks convenient and close by."

"The students here (at Davidson) are great. They keep you on your toes and that's inspiring," he adds. "I love teaching. My creative endeavors in both fields, and sharing them by teaching and using the web sites, that's my passion."

"The focus of is to bring the spirit of poetry and the Classics to life," he said.

"The Great Books are fundamental teachers as well as entertaining," says the physics professor. "What's made the classics stand the test of time is that people enjoy telling their children about them. Our target audience (of the web site) is teenagers to boomers. I appreciate all the e-mails, especially the parents who say 'sign my kid up.' If you look at a lot of literature that gets published today, it's often just stream of consciousness with no plot or character."

"One common theme among the great books is that the character has some type of moral conscience. They answer the question 'What is good?' And that's a difficult question to answer. The classics give perspective - they're the pinnacles of human reflection of life's situations. And even the most noble characters still have difficulty reaching ideals."

McGucken's favorite American authors are Mark Twain, Herman Melville and F. Scott Fitzgerald. His favorite poet and playwright is Shakespeare, and Hamlet is his favorite play. His favorite reading is the philosophies of such great thinkers as Albert Einstein and Newton.

"They have lots of writings that many people don't even know about," he says.

"That's what I'm trying to bring to life for this generation. marries technology to the timeless. Jollyroger takes you beyond the whole post-modern fog," claims McGucken proudly.

Jolly Roger.Com Unplugged
Just the Words, Wind, and Waves of a WWW Renaissance
by Elliott McGucken
There are those dreams which we can never reach,
The journey becomes the destination,
And deeper truths teachers can never teach,
They must be learned by imagination.
Like the hurricane's eye we never see,
But by the wind and waves we come to know,
That somewhere out there the tempest must be,
Though the sight of its center passes show.
But if we always had to wait for touch,
For something tangible, before we tried,
True love would never amount to much,
For before we found it, we would have died.
So out here on the web, I'll take a chance,
Set sail for romance and classics of yore,
The context for tomorrow's renaissance,
I'll sail the Roger to that distant shore.
And should we find naught but watery graves,
It'd be enough - just the words, winds, and waves.

©1999 Classicals and LLC

(Article reprinted with permission from the Lake Norman Magazine)

THE JOLLY ROGER-- As reviewed on Mr. Jeff's Political Links.

The Jolly Roger: The Jolly Roger Web Page is a twisted maze of political and social diatribes from young American writers, poets, and other artists. Proclaimed as the "Flagship of the 'Grungeservative' Renaissance," The Jolly Roger projects a healthy disdain for liberal academia, the traditional press, and "Generation X" stereotypes. Interspersed among these unique offerings, the visitor is encouraged to purchase classic American novels at ridiculously-low prices from "Beaconway Press." The brain child of Elliot "Ahab" McGucken, it's unclear whether he is trying to launch a non-traditional publishing house, or advance his own view of political America...perhaps both...perhaps neither. The visitor may also join the "Blackbeard's Cabin" mailing list, after selecting his or her "pirate" screen name. The Jolly Roger Web Page highlights the real potential for the World Wide Web during the 21st Century. The Web offers citizens of America and the World an opportunity to bypass traditional media and publishing companies, and take their message directly to the People. The Jolly Roger is certainly worth a visit, and worthy of close watch over the next few years. Mr. Jefferson's Challenge thus selects The Jolly Roger Web Page as the "Editor's Pick" for February.

An Off-the-Cuff Review
of the Jolly Roger Stuff,
Having Just Squinted at its Web Site
for Some Time
By Kirby Urner

For those of you who have been off-campus for awhile, like since before Rush Limbaugh and postmodernism became names for opposite poles, check out this conservative flagship Jolly Roger website (

And to think I thought my letters to President Bowen were bold! Here our post-postmodernist, neo-conservative Ahab, flying a Rush-head with crossed bones, goes semi-berserk over some 'feminazi' using her Princeton professorship to legitimize what the patriarchs have forever branded as "illegitimate": having kids out of wedlock. "And what has this to do with literature?" our outraged Rushmael asks the current prez of Princeton? As if the etymology of 'bastard' were not a matter of some literary substance.

Like, how're kids gonna understand the plots of Victorian novels if they don't get what 'wedlock' was all about? And if you've read the literature for a living, maybe you've gotten tired of the old plot lines and want to author some newfangled of science fiction wherein moms with kids without dads aren't spat upon in accordance the highest ideals of Judeo-Christianity. Sounds pregnant with literary possibilities to me.

But I digress. The main thrust of the attack by these pirates are the Consciounsness Freaks with their coffee-table physics and new agey mantras, half spirituality and half quantum mechanics. The new conservatives want to dehybridize religio-physics in a hurry, splitting them asunder, hard cold Truth on the one hand, funny emotional stuff on the other. We've done it this way in the past, why not again in the future? They aim to rescue a live, vibrant physics from its cold, dead fusion with feel-good fluff. Both science and soul are debased by their uneasy (or too easy) comingling. Morals and muons must be pried apart, so that science can get on with engineering a better laser printer, and moralists can get back to thumping Bibles instead of physics books. Gimme that old time religion and cut this tao of physics crap!

Somehow, on the charts of these pirates, coffee-table metaphysics has become synonymous with liberalism and the dilution of Truth by a lot of self-canceling, amoral, nihilistic, creeping cross-culturalism. Back when I went to Princeton, Liberal Arts meant studying a broad range of subjects so as to deepen ones appreciation of the planetary panolply -- much as these liberally (and expensively) educated conservatives advocate doing today. Liberalism also idealized an ability to consider matters from a variety of viewpoints -- so-called open-mindedness -- an ideal much ridiculed by the ditto-heads of today. But it never meant refraining from judgements. Intellectual freedom means the freedom embrace some ideas even while discriminating against others, and having the liberal education needed to pick one's affiliations intelligently. At the practical level, this can also mean knowing when to change channels.

But 'liberalism' is but another context-controlled charged particle, as spinnable as all the rest, at the mercy of young, impressionable, channel-surfing, Rush-viewing minds. Its meaning has deconstructed to whatever embodies 'the enemy' for these post-postmodernist Ahabs. Socrates, Einstein and Rush Limbaugh line up with the pirate good-guys, while feminazis, Frank Tippler and President Shapiro line up on with the liberal baddies. This was not an opposing team lineup I ever anticipated. But I chalk that up to the hard cold fact of real live gaps between generations. Each new youthful crew inherits a box of puppets and stages whatever hero-villain shows express the sense of the day. Oldsters may not understand what galvanizes the young, but hey, if it attracts an audience and moves product, what's to understand?

All that being said, the poetry is good, the wit sharp, and the critiques funny. I have a hard time finding my feet in this fun-house of distorting mirrors, so unrecognizably unlike the reality of my own freshman orientation (I liked Nietzsche too, but would never have imagined casting Rush as Zarathustra). So who needs a road map to enjoy the scenery? This may not be Kansas, Toto, nor even Oz, but it is a site of fiesty, intelligent ferment focused around my alma mater, so, like, I can relate.

I'll be back. as reviewed in The Daily Tar Heel

Novelist aims at online renaissance

Marya Devoto
Book Review

Elliot McGucken
"The Drake Raft Field Trip"
BeaconWay Press

Prominently emblazoned on the cover of Elliot McGucken's novel "The Drake Raft Field Trip" is the URL

For the uninitiated, that's an address on the World Wide Web. It's also a signal that "The Drake Raft Field Trip," a self-published volume available by online order as well as at the Bull's Head Bookshop, is not to be taken as a novel in the ordinary sense.

"Field Trip," and its Hamlet-like title character, Drake Raft (also the author of a volume of Shakespearean sonnets and star of a Dec. 5 midnight poetry reading to be held in Gerrard Hall) have less to do with fiction than with what postmodernists would call metafiction: they're a phenomenon, a kind of literary performance art meant to comment on what the hell fiction does and should do anyway.

Not that McGucken, Raft and company want anything to do with postmodernism. As McGucken -- the self-described captain of the "Jolly Roger," the pirate-themed web site/phenomenon/milieu he modestly calls "the online literary renaissance" -- is at pains to explain, postmodernism is part of what the Jolly Roger is fighting off.

The Jolly Roger, a forum for McGucken's prolific fictional, poetic and philosophical writings, is meant to demonstrate the rebellious power of literary truth. As the web site inimitably puts it, "The Good Ship Jolly Roger is armed with the Western Canon, and she shall deliver broadside blasts of truth onto all those who seek the destruction of the Great Books of yesteryear, as well as those who prevent the Great Books we're writing from being published while corrupting the context in which Greatness can be Appreciated, so as to advance their political nihilism, pornographic culture and inhumane, boring, feminist-MTV-slacker power structure."

Yeesh. If you thought that sentence was long and convoluted, see the web site for much, much more. The upside to all this longwindedness is plenty of humor and irony, and some great one-liners -- an icon on the home page is accompanied by the caption "Anyone attempting to deconstruct anything on this page will be keelhauled." McGucken has an eye for postmodern absurdity, and his counterweapon is more absurdity.

Or so it seems. Does he really think there's a "feminist-MTV-slacker power structure"? Or is this a broadside meant to trap into sounding just a bit humorless anyone alert enough to object that, no, MTV's silicon implant promotion industry is hardly allied with feminists -- who are always getting slammed themselves for politicizing young women -- and therefore can't be said to be pro-slacker? It's hard to know how much to take seriously here, and the Jolly Roger's tongue-in-cheek pirate motif and cast of quasi-fictional characters doesn't make it any easier.

Maybe that's why the philosophizing goes down a lot easier in novel form. McGucken, who's now pursuing a doctorate in physics at UNC, began his career as a literary bad boy when he founded a mock-secret society in his senior year at Princeton. He returns to that ground with "The Drake Raft Field Trip," a novel somewhere in the middle ground between the murder mystery and what the narrator refers to as "the Catch novels" -- "Catch 22" and "A Catcher in the Rye." "Field Trip"'s narrator, 14-year-old Timber, and his friend Cliff have a lot of the same things to say as Elliot McGucken, but they're funnier and more ironic coming out of the mouths of two Chapel Hill teenagers. Their quest to Princeton to discover the fate of the quasi-mythical Drake Raft is, ironically, extremely postmodern, in that it constantly points to its own fictionality in order to blur the distinctions between "fiction" and "realism."

The crew of the Jolly Roger wants to make literature into an exciting, rebellious, potentially dangerous pursuit. What have you done for the literary renaissance lately?

From Melville to Frost, the greats thrive on Outer Banks
Sentinel Staff

Have the Outer Banks left you in a literary wasteland? Do you get the cold shoulder when you try to talk Aristotle with the local bartender? Do you stride the beaches flinging verse at the sea because there's no one else to listen?

Although this area teems with writers and artists, their company can sometimes be hard to find.

But if you have access to the Internet, there's a link you should try out:

As municipal as the name might sound, this web site is really one of 10 different Internet sites that offer literary discussions, chats, classic book sales and merchandise to thousands of visitors a day. And the Kill Devil Hill site (headlined "Conserving Great Literature and the Great Outdoors") isn't the only one that borrows the name of a local landmark. Dr. Elliot McGucken, the site's creator, has nine other Internet domains, including ("The World's Largest Literary Cafe") and ("Live Literary Lighthouse Chats").

"The same sublime romanticism which is found in so much great literature also resounds through names like 'Kill Devil Hill,'" says McGucken, "and the same majestic sentiments expressed in so many classic books can be felt all up and down the Outer Banks. From the country's tallest lighthouses, to the legends and lore of pirates and shipwrecks, to the world's first powered flight, the ribbon of sand off the coast of North Carolina has always spurred my imagination."

The Kill Devil Hill site is not a place for nihilists or wimps. McGucken and his partners, Drake Raft and Becket Knottingham, favor writings as hearty as the barrier island climate and shun overcivilized postmodernism.

Visitors can sample John Locke, John Masefield, Thomas Jefferson, Herman Melville, Robert Frost, Albert Einstein and, of course, the men who made Kill Devil Hill famous, Orville and Wilbur Wright. They can sign up to receive a variety of poems by email, including the Kill Devil Hill Poem of the Day, Drake Raft's Sonnet of the Day, the Seafaring Poem of the Week and the Shakespeare Sonnet of the Day.

Sister sites offer the Shakespeare Poetry Port, the Classical Poety Port and the Great Books Reading Club, and shoppers can buy T-shirts and Shakespeare greeting cards at the Jolly Roger page. The Hatteras Light server hosts a discussion that includes posts on "The Great Gatsby," "Cold Mountain," "Moll Flanders," "Beowulf" and "A Separate Peace."

All three of the site's creators seem to have some connection to the sea. Raft is described as "captain and poet"; Knottingham, who often speaks in pirate lingo, is "writer and ranger." These two are somewhat mysterious characters.

McGucken, the most accessible, is dubbed "scientist and sailor" and does, in fact, sail the waters of the Outer Banks -- specifically, Canadian Hole in Avon, where he visits regularly with his windsurfing gear.

Perhaps surprisingly, McGucken is, in fact, a scientist. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill this year with a doctorate in physics and now teaches at a small liberal arts college in Noprth Carolina.

"Physics and poetry have a lot of similarities," says McGucken, "in that they both attempt to describe reality. And they're both inspired by a sense of the mysterious, which Einstein credited as the root of all profound science and art."

McGucken was born in Akron, Ohio, and earned his undergraduate degree at Princeton. Although his family had vacationed in Nags Head and Avon during his childhood, it wasn't until he spent the autumn of 1991 in Chapel Hill that McGucken really fell in love with North Carolina.

He came back to the Outer Banks as a graduate student and began to connect to a place he loved with the writing he loved.

Several years later, McGucken would start his first web site,, with Raft and Knottingham, whom he introduced to the barrier islands. Their enterprise has now expanded to include,,,,,,, and the incipient There is no physics site yet, although McGucken talks of starting one called

Defying the baby-boomers who have tried to pigeonhole them, the trio has dubbed their venture the "Generation-X Renaissance."

"Generation-X was supposed to be a collection of slackers, a group of aimless, cynical, culturally valueless consumers, incapable of thought, higher aesthetics, profound belief or traditional ideals," says McGucken.

Knottingham finishes that thought: "What so many boomers and 'experts' perceive as barren ground, I see as a fertile field where the seeds are just being planted."

The group is on a mission to spread those seeds, to bring back the classics they feel have been neglected. They don't savage contemporary authors or issue literary judgments (although they can't pass up a jab at "vehement and vitriolic deconstructions"). But they do express a strong preference for writers whose greatness is undisputed.

"I've always preferred those poets who went for it all," says Raft, "the rhyme, the meter and the meaning. Or at least those who went for the meaning. Shakespeare was a philosopher who rhymed, while Plato and Aristotle were poets who didn't."

The T-shirts available at The Jolly Roger feature a skull and crossbones and the legend, "Oak planks of reason, riveted with rhyme, designed to voyage across all of time."

All three seem to favor Shakespeare above the others; McGucken reads the letters of America's founding fathers and his favorite American writer is Melville; judging by his choices for poem of the day, Knottingham is a devotee of Frost, Cummings, Dickinson and Masefield; Raft adds the Old Testament prophets to his preference for Shakespeare.

Although it's really a sideline, the work has turned out profitable for the classical threesome. On a busy day, the sites see as many as 20,000 visitors. More than 25,000 have registered with The Jolly Roger. The eight sites which are currently operational post a combined total of 1.2 million advertising banners each month.

The free poems of the day go out to 4,000 subscribers.

"As it's always been a labor of love," says Knottingham, "I would have to say the sites have been profitable from the day they went up. But it's also a great thing to be getting paid for following one's passions."

From Stephen F. Austin University WWW Resources:

Content: The Jolly Roger is an electronic flagship made from "Oak planks of reason, rivited with rhyme, designed to voyage across all time." This ship is on a quest to revive Great Literature. In the guise of pirates this crew sets sail on the seven cyber-seas to seek TRUTH. Each month an electronic magizine with stories, articles, and poetry, submitted by all members, is published and sent out. One of the quotes on this page states, "We don't just read great Literature, we write it." There are links to sites dealing with critical thinking and exploring classic literature.


This sight, although somewhat esoteric, is cool. It urges students to take an active part in society, and not let themselves be labled by terms like "slakers", "grunge", or even "Generation X" It is a good way to get works published and ineract with other writers. There are also some really in depth literary chat rooms with valuable insight. I feel that this is a fairly motivational sight, with an actual purpose. Students may find something worth fighting for through this sight. Plus the whole pirate theme is pretty funky.

Published: Thursday, March 30, 2000
Section: CLICK
Page: 1D

By DAVID BORAKS, Staff Writer

A year ago, Elliot McGucken appeared on his way to a successful academic career. His 1998 doctoral dissertation at UNC Chapel Hill, a design for a computer chip that someday could help blind people see, won a national prize. He landed a job at Davidson College and began teaching physics last fall.

Then another of McGucken's passions - an Internet literature site called - interrupted everything, transforming the professor into an Internet entrepreneur.

"Teaching is really fun; I've really enjoyed it. But I wasn't sleeping too much anymore," said McGucken, 30.

So he decided not to teach the spring semester, concentrating instead on the fledgling Web business, which he runs from his Davidson apartment.

Since he created it in 1995, and a series of related literary discussion sites with names like, Classical Poetry Port and, have drawn a global following.

"It started out as a classical literature site that was aimed at Generation X, but the audience has become more diverse," McGucken said.

Visitors to McGucken's online message boards discuss everything from Shakespeare to J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye." On busy days, 15,000 people stop by.

With that many visitors, McGucken's pages have become a popular location for banner advertisements - those colorful, sometimes animated rectangles designed to entice users to other sites.

Last fall, he negotiated a deal with, a unit of NBC Interactive, to host's main page. He shares advertising revenue about 50-50 with NBCi. Meanwhile, his other pages generate income, too, through a relationship with Flycast, an advertising banner service. Still more revenues come from, which pays him a percentage of the book or music sales his sites refer.

Altogether, his young company, called Classicals & LLC, brought in about $150,000 last year, he said.

McGucken didn't set out to develop a commercial Web site and he still doesn't see it that way. But when he stumbled across Flycast about three years ago, he saw how it could help pay for what then was still a grad-student hobby.

"My first check was around $50, for my first month. I just kept putting everything back into the site. I bought some more disk space (from his Web page hosting service) with that," he said.

As his Web traffic increased, the checks grew in size. Advertisers pay $6 to $30 per thousand "impressions" (the number of times an ad banner is downloaded onto users' screens), and he splits ad revenues with Flycast - 70 percent for him, 30 for Flycast.

Despite the growth of his online literary empire, McGucken remains the lone employee. He pays others to host and maintain his computer servers. And he has about two dozen volunteer moderators who manage hundreds of online discussions.

Visitors keep the message boards fresh, though as a Renaissance man for the Internet age, McGucken also contributes fiction and poetry to the pages, satisfying another love - writing.

He increasingly finds himself wrapped up in the business. And that makes it difficult to join the discussions. "I did a long time ago, but now, I barely ever do, just because I don't have time," he said.

Recently, he has been talking with potential investors in hopes of raising money to expand. More money could allow him to hire experts to develop and maintain specific subject areas of his various sites. And he could add services, such as free e-mail or a searchable message archive.

But he's aware there could be trade-offs. For one thing, he'd likely lose money for a while as he waited for revenues to catch up with new expenses. And he fears the sites might lose their focus. "You always have to be cautious when you're marrying art and commerce, so you don't let the commerce dominate the artistic side," he said.

So McGucken also thinks about growing modestly, a contrary thought among most Internet businesses. "Right now, it's a crazy idea for a start-up if you just keep everything in-house and try to grow it at a reasonable you just keep everything in-house and try to grow it at a reasonable rate," he said.

And he's trying not to lose sight of his original goal: building a new generation of lovers of classical literature and art, something he refers to as the "WWW Renaissance."

"If you go to school now, the classics really get short shrift," he said. "But once you head down that road, you start to realize how much of our daily lives are based on the classics. Our constitutional system is rooted in ideas of John Locke and the ancient Greeks and concepts of morality that are based in the Bible.

"It's a part of our heritage that we almost don't acknowledge.

Elliot McGucken

Age: 30.

Hometown: Akron, Ohio.

Job: Founder and lone employee of Classicals & LLC.

Education: Princeton University, bachelor's degree in physics, 1991; UNC Chapel Hill, Ph.D. in physics and engineering, 1998; post-doctoral study at N.C. State.

Recent reading: "The XML Handbook" and Thoreau's "Walden Pond." ("They're both sort of work-related.")

Pets: "No, they would get lost beneath the mess."

Current goals: Finding a publisher for his novel "The Tragedy of" ("a modern-day `Hamlet' ") and raising venture capital for his company.

*not quoted in LA Times

Three Mouseketeers
Internet startup captains put their daring-do to the test

by Beth McNichol '95

A man dies before his wealth finds him, before his success spoils him, before the gifts within his mind could be left to turn gray and stale, touched by literary editors with hermetically sealed imaginations. He dies before his work is talked about on the street and in pubs, before his product's name becomes a metaphor for greatness, before he poses for any photo shoots for book jackets. He dies before there are Internet chat rooms dedicated to his very soul, before cookies aren't a type of food. And Elliot McGucken '98 (PhD) loves Herman Melville all the more for it. "He said, 'I know I'm writing words that won't sell, but write any other words I cannot,'" says McGucken. "That's what makes them so valuable. The fact that they weren't done for money; they were done for some kind of greater cause, a greater aesthetic. I mean, how much money did Herman Melville have to raise to write Moby Dick?"

The answer is none, of course. The author died penniless and 50 years passed before his classic literature became classic, before anyone noticed. In a world where everyone wants to be noticed yesterday, McGucken, a 30-year-old already-former college professor, fancies himself a modern-day Ahab. He is, as he has been since 1995, the sole employee of the classical literary Web site , which might best be termed the anti-Internet startup.

Unlike today's youth-fired, risk-filled Web company minefield, McGucken didn't christen Jollyroger to make a living; all he hoped to do was marry his love of English with technology and provide a forum for people his age to rediscover and talk about Great Books. But two and a half years after its birth, his little hobby was turning a profit. By the time he was teaching at Davidson College, McGucken's site was hosted by , enjoyed partnerships with NBC Interactive, The Gap, Dell Computers, Engage media and and was recording upward of 3 million page views per month.

He takes a 5 to 15 percent commission on every book his visitors buy from Amazon, and similar sales from other companies that advertise on his site. Through his affiliation with Engage, which sells most of the banner ads, he earns as much as $15 each time someone clicks on an ad-more if they buy from the advertiser. All told, with such low overhead, his Jollyroger salary hovers at about $100,000 a year-well more than did his professor's salary.

Although McGucken-using his three degrees in physics-also developed a computer chip that helps restore vision to blind people, he didn't need any of those sheepskins to grasp what he'd stumbled upon with the Web. "Whenever you create something, you want other people to see it," says McGucken, who now runs Jollyroger full time out of his home in Chapel Hill. "But I wasn't thinking of millions of people seeing it."

McGucken was a Web guy before Web guys were cool, before Wired became Gen-X's Time, in the good ol' days when twentysomethings were still joining the payrolls of someone else's company. Now, it seems everyone has an idea for an e-venture but few have the pluck and pliancy to see it to fruition.

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