TECHNOFILE

Siren-like, the Hooting Yard Home Page lures navigators of the Net by salting itself with seductive keywords. All those who engage the Web's great search engines to seek out "tungsten", "hebetude", "ullage", "usufruct", "myrmidon" or "bind-weed" will be drawn there irresistibly. Otherwise, you can locate it at http://www.ndirect.co.uk/hootingyard. Or, as the Hooting Yard Primer advises, walk along Amnesiac Lane, follow the hedge until you come to the gates of Haemoglobin Towers, and Hooting Yard is on your right by the duckpond.

According to the Home Page, the site was last updated at some point in the 17th century, but it is an attic crazily packed with the aerostats, flanges, cobalt and general late-Victorian flotsam of British comic surrealism. It's nice to see that this tradition has translated from the small presses into the digital ether, demonstrating that the Net can handle idioms other than Californian. Hooting Yard is a haven for people who like words they can savour, and lots of them. A highlight is the 709-word sentence extracted from Frank Key's story "The Crunlop Experiment". "I think it works on its own terms, even out of context," Key observes.

As well as perusing Key's stories and drawings, visitors are invited to take part in "Intriguing Projects" such as the proudly undefined Homunculus Project, for which one of the suggested starting points is Oulipo. This stands for Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle, or Workshop for Potential Literature, an enterprise cited by Key as a major influence. Launched in 1960, it was dedicated to the creation of constraints upon writing. An Oulipian author is "a rat who himself constructs the labyrinth which he proposes to get out of (un rat qui construit lui-meme le labyrinthe dont il se propose de sortir)".

Key provides a link from Hooting Yard to a site in Ontario where a PhD student called Stefan Sinclair keeps the Oulipian flame not just alight but incandescent: starry backgrounds, pale blue text on a pale grey field, and all the other Web equivalents of go-faster stripes. It's in French and English.

Raymond Queneau, a founder of Oulipo, depicted his book A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems as a model of a machine for generating sonnets. Sinclair has used the language of hypertext to create a working electronic model of this machine, predictably incorporating a constraint only too familiar to Web travellers. It requires a browser that understands Java, a taste so far acquired only by the Web avant-garde. Aspiring Oulipians who prefer to use their own wetware can jump to a French site which carries a table of constraints planned by Queneau, and embellished by fellow Oulipians such as George Perec and Italo Calvino.

Queneau's machine conceit was noted by Calvino in a discussion of the possibilities of a "literature machine" given as a lecture nearly 30 years ago. "Its true vocation would be for classicism," Calvino opined. He pointed out that experiments in machine writing, depending on chance, had hitherto sought to produce disorder. "The test of a poetic-electronic machine would be its ability to produce traditional works, poems with closed metrical forms, novels that follow all the rules."

Sinclair's automaton seems adept at generating doggerel that rhymes, presumably not what Calvino had in mind. While we wait for a program that generates traditional literature in a hypertext setting - Prescott, one might call it - Hooting Yard is sol- iciting texts composed entirely from cryptic crossword clues, to be sent to the Tetchy Cruciverbist.

Marek.kohn@mcr1.poptel.org.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?