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Alive 5


Mekka Symposium not-quite-a-Realtime-Article Diary Sort of Thing!

                               -~- By CiH -~-

    .:::.::.:. (                                             )_ 
   ':::'' ''::'(All those who think it is hot and noisy now,   ) 
   ::'._   _.:'(wait until you get into the sleeping shed later!)
    c-[_]-[_]}  / '--- --- ----------- ---- ------ ----- - --- --'
    (    _\  )
     \ <__> /

 Our "special" correspondent reports!

17.45  hours on the 29th March,  and a concentrated gust of heat and  noise
hits you when you step into the Heidmark Halle for the first time.  This is
the effluence of the combined activities of anything up to fourteen hundred
people,  if the propaganda coming from the official website is any reliable

There are representatives of many scenes, from all corners of Europe. Among
the many diverse flavours of people, we may see Estonian C64 freaks, German
PeeCee  fans,  French  Amiga  bods,  and even a couple of isolated  looking
iMac's, but where are we Atarians?

Well there are a small number of us, a conservative headcount hovers around
the twenties.  - Sorry,  just paused to reboot with FlaySID, the main sound
system  has been cranked up,  and I don't really go for reggae this  turgid
and  heavy!  Now  the  status  quo has been  restored  with  some  suitable
oldskoolish sounds, these ones of a SID-dy persuation.

So,  back  to  the  topic  in hand,  where are all those brave  people  who
populated classic Atari parties, such as the immortal and fondly remembered
Error  in  Line series?  Well a few of them are here with us now.  We drove
Havoc to the party here,  after driving him mad by our very late arrival at
03.00hrs  this morning!  Sitting opposite are a group of Swedes,  headed by
Baggio,  complete with a child-scaring goatee beard!  There is a reasonable
French representation,  where we spotted Zerkman and DMA-SC in there.  Also
Deez managed to unstick himself from the UK,  with more success than we had
yesterday  (more on that day's aggravation shortly!) Somewhere else in  the
building,  is Q-Funk, the demonic walker into obscure wildernesses, and ALT
Party survivor.

21.00 hours, And the meal of the day is Chinese in shape and taste!

Q-Funk  and a couple of other guys summoned us forth to a  sino-german  co-
operative food venture.  The end result was not too bad, and due to a fatal
miscalculation on the part of Q-Funk, it was in easy stalking distance, and
absolutely no epic feats of hiking were involved!

Getting  back sees a few important additions to the Atari contingent.  Some
of  the  missing Germans have turned up,  as the smiling face of  MC  Laser
greets us on our return.  Other tSCc dudes sit close by, and Remo is due to
put  in an appearance tomorrow.  People are asking "Where is Ray?" There is
some  work  being  put in discreetly by various people  on  possible  small
releases  for the party,  but bearing in mind my previous lame track record
for correct prediction, I'd better not get your hopes up too high just yet,

(Clicky sticky crap! After several months of relatively good behaviour, the 
wobbly keyboard gremlin that has lurked to ill effect at previous  parties, 
seems to be set on trying to make a comeback! And this is when this machine 
is still hardly warm? Maybe this keyboard is being disturbed by some of the 
more  eccentric  clothing  and  behaviour of  some  of  the  younger  Mekka 

For  now,  we cast our minds back to a day of disappointment and delays,  a
day spent in the darker recesses of travel hell, as we now ask the question
"was it really only yesterday?!"

* Prequel, otherwise known as "The Outlook is Foggy! *

Why  not  fast-backward  to 06.00 hours,  the day is Thursday the  28th  of
March,  and  I stand all packed and ready in keen anticipation of what  the
coming days may bring.

One of the things it brings,  is a last-gasp of winter, in the form of some
late  season  fog.  The  journey  up  shows it to be  on  the  lines  of  a
traditional  'pea-souper',  of  the sort seen a lot in bad Sherlock  Holmes
films.  It  is  indeed  of the sort of thickness where you  are  making  an
educated guess as to those tantalising objects in the road in front of  you
actually  are?  I  get  to  Felice's without incident,  but  I'm  expecting

We  set  off,  and  encounter  it almost mere yards and  metres  away  from
Felice's front door,  as a stark and univiting queue of stationary fogbound
traffic  tells  its own silent tale of woe and disaster.  Tuning  into  the
local  'drivetime' radio drags out a traffic report that reads less like  a
traffic  report,  and  more like a war memorial!  On the major route we are
attempting  to  get to,  there are up to *nine* major accidents,  all  with
crumpled  metal,  broken  glass,  and  brightly  jacketed police  fire  and
ambulance people in attendance!  But never mind that, as we've still got to
get out of the mess that we've got caught in.

We  do manage to detour out of it after thirty minutes or so,  and straight
into  the  maw of a queue for another incident,  half a mile or  so  later.
After  about an hour of non-productive hanging around,  I contact the ferry
company  offices.  The  lady on the other end is sympathetic but  not  that
helpful. The ferry leaves on time, and that is that, we will have to try to
get to Harwich somehow.  That said, we do our best, with a deep detour past
the  worst of the traffic mess,  but our best just isn't good quite  enough
this  time,  as we catch sight of the MV Stena Discovery gliding away  from
its berth, giving a cheerily annoying "tough shit!" blast from its foghorn.

We have the option of travelling on the later sailing,  at 19.20 hours,  at
no  extra cost,  which is fair,  but that leaves us with a yawning chasm of
time  to  kill until then.  The girl on the checking in kiosk seems  pretty
sure it will be easy. Harwich has lots of interesting things to see and do,
we are told..

It turned out more than a little bit differently to that, of course!

Harwich  can  best  be described (accurately) as 'Rushden on  Sea'!  It  is
another small town that time,  and money,  forgot. Shops are boarded up, or
closed,  due  to  a  policy of studied apathy,  everything has  an  unkempt
weatherbeaten  and  unpainted air about it.  We actually had a job to  find
something that approximated to a town centre, spotting people emerging from
the  high street clutching shopping bags,  much as a man dying of thirst in
the desert starts to see mirages. We do eventually find the local cafe, for
local  people.  This  offers a basic menu,  a group of dodgy looking  types
replenishing  cholesterol levels in between breaking into cars,  the  usual
selection of trainee teenage single mothers, and a couple of elderly people
hell-bent on chain smoking themselves, and us, to death.

They  also do a decent full English breakfast,  ("And none of that  foreign
rubbish, mind you, I want *proper* Danish bacon!")

(22.24 note:- Ray of tSCc is now in the building!  Also,  there are *still* 
people  arriving  with more kit,  but the party is full already,  where are 
they going to go?!)

We decide that spending another six hours in Harwich is really more than we
can  stand,  and  head out of town,  ending up in Colchester.  Colchester is
mainly famous for the fact that it contains an army garrison,  and has done
since  the  time  of the Romans.  Former Maggie altered states  of  reality
correspondent,  Jody  Smith used to live there.  He remembered it well as a
very uncertain and dangerous place, where kill-crazy army people would roam
the  clubs and bars of an evening,  trying to pick fights with unsuspecting
civilians  for  no  good reason!  There isn't really  anything  there  that
compels us to get out and explore, so we eventually head back to Harwich.

Over  a lot of years spent in less than exciting places and  situations,  I
have  somehow developed an ability for being able to sit and  wait  without
any  obvious  pain or ill-effects over a lot of boring  empty  hours.  This
comes  in handy right now.  Eventually our belated ship of dreams comes in,
we  set  sail,  take up our usual seats by the video wall,  and do all  the
usual crossing rituals involving food,  drink,  exploration of the tax free
shop,  and  artful criticism of the output on the video wall.  (Which had a
new Ali G production on it.)

To cut a long journey short,  we eventually end up in Enschede,  at Havoc's
place,  at  03.00 hours on the Friday morning.  This is another last minute
change  of  plan,  as we were originally set to go all the way to  Creature
XL's place in Hanover, but factors changed, which ruled him out of the days
proceedings.  Getting to Havoc's place is straightforward,  with no amusing
chats  with  the local forces of law enforcement this time around,  and  no
wrong  turnings  taken  either.  Weren't we clever?  Well we've been  there
enough times to know where we're going by now!  My mobile,  silent up until
now, wakes up sufficiently to get a signal, so we can wake Havok up gently!
He staggers downstairs in a sleep-zombified state to let us in.

After  a  few hours sleep,  gained by the handy expedient of  me  partially
dismantling  Havoc's  sofa,  it's  a glorious sunny day,  and we're off  to
Fallingbostel, almost before we can say "Are you sure Havoc is meant to fit
onto the back seat *quite* like that?!"

This  part of the journey is straightforward,  and we find ourselves at the
party place at around the hour of 15.00.

Which brings us hurtling back to the present...

The  party  place,  the Heidmark Halle,  consists of a front reception area
where the organisers gather,  some toilets,  and a vast hall jammed full of
computers and a huge stream of people constantly flowing in all directions.
There are a number of culture shocks to consider, and we're wondering if we
are getting a bit too old for this game now?

Our  first  encounter with the new generation of young  sceners  finds  one
slumped  out cold in the car park,  this was at 15.15 hours,  and we wonder
how  he  is  going to last the other three days?!  His  friends  have  been
"helpful" in artfully arranging various bits of computer debris,  discarded
magazines,  and  beer  bottles  around  and on him.  Felice edges  the  car
nervously around him,  and the last we heard,  was that this individual had
been sold to the Tate Gallery as a stunningly challenging contemporary work
of art, for seven million UKP!

One  of  the other things apparent,  is that there seems to be a  lot  more
dressing up of various kinds. We Atari people are a conservative lot, maybe
expecting the odd party souvenir tee-shirt, or occasional dangerously funny
haircut,  (Hi Earx,  Mr Pink, Sh3!!) People here took things a bit further,
with  a  selection of silly hats,  and we spotted a 'Colonel Scener' in  US
military  issue headgear,  and a 'Cardinal Scener',  who may well have been
coding  some Roman Catholic demos,  to go with his priest's hat?(*) Another
individual  had no problem in dressing in a bunny costume,  and this parade
of  sad cross-dressing,  and even worse acting extended into a cod-medieval
opening  ceremony,  where the Knights who say 'Ni!' seem to have been given
German accents, and the evening off to appear here!?

(*) Post-Party note:- I think some of these were Polish C64 people..

Right, that brings matters up to date, I'm off for a drink!

(CiH at 22.56hrs.)

It's  DAY  2,  the  30.3.02,  it's  sometime past midnight,  and it's  very
darkened, with a very bright screen right in front of me!

We're  suffering the obligatory live music spot.  It's like Kraftwerk,  but
without the catchiness, or sense of humour of that outfit...

Various  people have been coming up and talking to me,  including the  sole
other  UK  person  to have attended this party?  He seems to be  with  some
PeeCee  group,  but had an involvement in Atari related stuff,  up to 1994.
His  interest wasn't in the demo scene at that time,  but he does  remember
such  luminaries  of  the  software  redistribution  scene,   such  as  the
Bladerunners, and the Pompey Pirates!

Okay, it's getting late, but not too late, seeya later?

That time of the day deserves some exclamation marks!

And I haven't been to bed yet!

I've  avoided  the sleeping room,  a big shed at the back of  the  Heidmark
Halle,  as  it  currently is in pitch blackness,  and full of people.  Right
now,  the  sleeping facilities are adequate for a party about the third  of
the size of this one. Most of the rest of the Atari scene have gone to bed,
apart  from  Deez,  who tried an uneasy night's sleep in a car,  and Havoc,
like  myself,  who simply forgot about going to bed until it was too  late!
DMA-SC rates an honourable mention, as someone who stayed up later than the
rest, and I was able to confront him with some rude ASCII!

Ah,  Felice has returned, and he's not very happy at all. It looks like the
sleeping area is a bit of a freezing and noisy live animated disaster area,
where the last thing possible is sleeping!? Never mind, he shall keep going
until we slump across the keyboaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa....

And talking of ASCII,  I've finally managed to make a start on a little pet
project  that  I've had the idea for about the last  month,  without  doing
anything about it.

Robotic  Pop Idols have it in their nature to break their programming,  and
become disobedient! - There, that's all I'm saying on the subject for now!

What else have I been doing?  Well I listened to so much music stored on my
hard drive that my ears are ready to pop,  and this Falcy overheated to the
point that it wasn't even prepared to boot a desktop anymore.  So I left it
for a bit,  switched it on again about ten minutes ago,  and the reassuring
sight of a top left hand corner of the screen dominated by the sign of  the
Fuji appeared. So I think this is going to be alright again.

Back  later  when  some of the other Atari bods return,  no doubt  full  of
"Sleeping area sucks!" anecdotes?

(Some time later...)

I've managed to try out the sleeping area that sucked so much,  and I think
that I've sussed out the main reasons why it might suck...

The sleeping area is in a temporary shed or barn with a canvas roof.  It is
heated  by  a  hot air blower which does its job well enough,  as  you  are
greeted  with a blast of warm air when you first go in,  an experience  not
unlike  our initial arrival at the Heide Halle.  The problem comes when you
go  to lie down,  as it is apparent that heat has a nasty tendency to  rise
(out of reach!)

At the same time,  the 'temporary' nature of this building is underlined by
the large gaps in the walls,  which admit blasts of chill evening air.  You
have a situation where you can be warm,  if you either get the spot next to
the  hot  air  inlet  tube,  or else you somehow have  to  learn  to  sleep
suspended off the floor and near to the roof! (Note to the organisers, next
time, provide hammocks!)

Next,  the  foot  traffic in and out is constant,  and if you are not  100%
dedicated  to the idea of total exhaustion,  then the squeaky door  reminds
you  of its presence,  constantly,  not to mention the passing foot traffic
often causes a dip or wobble in the temporary flooring, so it is if you are
sleeping in an earthquake zone.

The  rumble  of  passing traffic on the nearby highway is  really  a  minor
distraction,  compared  with  the rest of it!  I'm pretty sure I managed to
sleep a little bit this morning.  At the very least, it is a huge relief to
put  my feet up and to get away from the relentlessness of the party for  a

Other news this morning?  Errrm buggerall really.  The French guys are back
on station,  the Swedes seem to be doing an 'Arnel' and are trying to sleep
their way through this party? I've had a currywurst, ("Mmmmm, what I'd give
for  a  currywurst  right now!" - Arnel,  Symposium 1996!) which  the  food
coroner  pronounced  'dead delicious!' MC Laser is sitting  across  looking
neat and unruffled,  so did he have access to a special private 'organisers
bathroom' then?!

At last,  some competition related happenings,  with the C64 4ktro's on the
big screen. A nice batch, but the 252 byte blocky sineous wobbly line thing
has  already been caned by Atari efforts in 128 bytes,  years ago!  Nothing
really really new there,  but there was one with a nice,  screenfilling and
fast  texturemap  in the 4k,  with SID music,  and other effects tagged  on
before,  so it was a proper dentro-sized production.  Certainly up with the
DHS 4k efforts, for maximum use of the limited resources.

More  Atari  people  are around,  with Baggio breaking his Arnel  spell  to
return to the action in the main hall. Deez isn't too happy, as his luggage
decided  it wanted to catch an entirely different flight from the one  that
he  went  on!  Is there going to be a heartstopping reunion 'twixt man  and
luggage,  or  will  airport-based butts have to be kicked?  Only time  will

Nearly 16.00hrs.
Not a huge amount more to report since the last log entry. I've been to the
local  supermarket  for  local people,  which has had to deal with  a  huge
influx  of dubious people of a scenish persuasion over the last  couple  of
days,  topped up on a few basic foodstuffs. Then I slept, or relaxed in the
sleeping  tent  during  the warmest time of day,  which would be  around  a
couple  of hours or so until it starts getting dank and chilly again.  I've
also  had  a  freshen-up  and change of  clothes.  Disabled  toilets  rule,
especially for the amount of room and relative privacy that you get! Baggio
is wearing his 3 Alt Party tee-shirt,  so am I. We have decided between us,
that  ALT  3 was a really worthwhile party,  purely to annoy MC Laser  also
sitting nearby!

It also looks like I've missed a tracker music competition...


Back  later,  when  there's something hopefully decent to write about.  The
next compo is on its way shortly.

Breaking News! (At last!!)

There  have  been two positively identified Atari demos for this  party.  A
combined  production  with  Wildfire  and  the  Nature  Brothers   (source;
Associated  Felice  Press!)  and also a surprise reappearance  by  a  scene
legend,  Nerve,  who no-one has seen for years, and who has brought a brand
new demo with him!  I did get to talk to him directly,  and he said that we
should  expect  something "noisier" than the standard Atari  demo!  He  was
apparently  working on this,  even on the way to the party.  So a bit of an
echo  of  the  surprise sprung on us by Escape last  year.  I  wouldn't  be
surprised if there were one or two more to come?

Also,  just viewed the Amiga 4ktro competition. Fewer entries than the C64,
but  more  technically impressive,  but I'm assuming they  didn't  restrict
themselves  to  a classic A500 Amiga,  so they ought to be!  Again,  nothing
really  new  here,  but  let's see what the bigger  competitions  kick  out
tonight and tomorrow?

The  Wildfire  involvement  in the demo competitions  has  been  confirmed.
Graphics competitions about to start.

The first gfx compo is a themed 'Robots vs knights' affair, with a freehand
compo to follow.

Graphics  compo just finished,  Felice has returned with Q-Funk to announce
that their room-finding mission has been unsuccessful.  No room at the inn!
Will  we  be  able to get to sleep tonight,  or does another  yawning  hell
await? You will find out, as we will over the coming hours.

Graphics compo entries were plentiful,  and of a high standard, but the old
argument  applies of course,  but so they should be,  with the hardware and
software  involved.  Some  of the more sustained applause was reserved  for
those  entries that announced themselves as simple pixelled pictures,  done
on  something  like DPaint 4 on the Amiga.  There was at least one  amusing
entry in there,  'Dirty Harry', which was a piss-take of the secret life of
the world's favourite boy wizard.

If  the  timetable  on  the big screen is correct,  there  are  some  Amiga
64ktro'sd coming up soon.

Of miscellaneous themes worth mentioning, whilst we await the next burst of
competitions,  there  has  been a shrine set up in the Polski C64  quarter.
This  is dominated by a gold-painted Commodore 64,  with a replica  chapel,
including  a  Commodore-themed  minature stained glass window.  Is  this  a
notice  announcing  the  end  of that great  machine,  or  more  likely,  a
commandment to bow down and worship it!?

Amiga 64ktro's are over,  with a couple of real smashers. These may well be
better than the full demos?  Never since the days of 'Terrorise Your Soul',
has  a small amount of space been put to such good use.  It's as if they've
taken a 3 meg demo, and packed it down to 64k! My prediction for the winner
of  that  three horse race,  the intro called 'Planet Potion'.  There is  a
great  2nd  place  effort,  which takes you around a Quake-like tour  of  a
castle.  How  did  they  get  so many textures in there?!  And  the  really
interesting  thing as far as we are concerned was the fact that it  proudly
advertised it was an '060 demo only,  with no PPC or graphics card to help.
CT60 potential perhaps?

The  noisy smeghead with the loudspeaker,  and even louder horn is busy.  A
considerable number of pre-match "refreshments" are implicated!

Ah well,  time for some racket-blocking music of my own..  (Reaches for the

The Wild Competition seems to have got stuck?

Still  we've been treated to some very interesting entries,  including  all
sorts  of  videos,   including  a  Simpsons  takeoff,  and  something  very
controversial  from  a  group called Crimson Jihad,  which seems  to  'rip'
inspiration  from the events of September 11th?  It is supposedly an  Anti-
Microsoft  production,  but  the message is somewhat confused,  to say  the

Ah, the Wild compo is back on...

......Maybe not?

Whilst we're waiting,  I'll tell you about the one proper 'oldskool' entry,
a  full demo for some Texas programmable calculator thingy.  Chock full  of
tunnels  and  plasma,  and even a four greyscale hi-res picture on what  is
only a two colour display!  It would have been more at home at the last Alt
Party, but the audience here seems to appreciate it.

Now  the  organisers  are telling us that their problems  are  all  Win  XP
related. They moved the mouse, and Windows told them they had to reboot for
the changes to take effect!!!  Total comedy! as Mr Pink of RG would rightly

The  wild  compo  has finally finished,  it's a miracle that  last  delayed
entry,  for  it  is a German speaking western!  (Clint von Eastwood  versus
Johann  Wayne?)  Coming up next is that dread pair of  words,  "live  act",
which  is guaranteed to clear the hall,  then the ever-interesting C64 main
demo competitions.  I should still be around to give some first impressions
of these?

Clocks go forward, so we lose an hour in bed, or not? No great loss, if the
sleeping tent is as hellish at night as it has been painted.

*News  Just In!* The Crimson Jihad entry has been disqualified.  Looks like
they  did themselves absolutely no favours at all by including  footage  of
the attacks on New York as a kind of 'demo effect'?!  Maybe they would have
got away with it, if they hadn't done that, but this looks like a breach of
good taste boundaries gone one step too far...

Havoc  has  returned  from  the freezing sleeping  tent  cum  cold  storage
facility.  It  isn't  any easier to sleep there from last night,  so we can
expect the return of a tired and fretful Felice fairly soon?  Havoc is none
too  happy himself about this,  and it is going to be a serious issue as to
whether any form of sleep is possible here?

I've  been  alright,  my mid-morning and afternoon timeouts may  well  have
helped,  as I'm still sort of together, mind and body wise. The live act is
a predictably annoying filler before the final competition of the  evening,
the C64 demo compo,  and is probably a friend of the organisers, brought in
as some kind of under the counter favour. Like all live acts doing a favour
for  a  friend,  they will confuse extreme volume levels and  shitty  sound
quality with doing a good job.

*News  just in,  a while ago.* Felice has managed to make contact with  the
outside  world,  and  found out that Britain is bowed under the  weight  of
black-edged  news  bulletins  and commemorative telly  programmes  about  a
certain  Elizabeth  Windsor,  nee Bowes-Lyon,  who shuffled off this mortal
coil  whilst  we're in this demo dungeon of madness.  UK readers will  know
this person better as the Queen Mother, they will also know that at getting
on for 102,  she had a good run, better than most in fact. We're very sorry
about her death,  but massively relieved at the same time that we've missed
most  of  the  mawkish official mourning process that the rest  of  the  UK
population are going through at the moment. There are three people from the
UK here at Mekka Symposium, and apart from some oddball explorer blokes who
might  be marooned out of radio contact in the Andes foothills,  they  (we)
are the luckiest British people around, solely for that reason!

Oh fuck,  the live act is starting! Deduct a large splodge of good fortune,
I was getting carried away on that last paragraph.

DAY 3,  It's 01.57hrs,  shortly to become 02.00hrs,  and then 03.00hrs very 
quickly with the onset of daylight saving.

Saw  the  C64  demos,  a  bit of a mixed bag,  with a couple  of  authentic
megademos,  and  a  cool little line cartoon style demo called 'La  Linea',
about the misadventures of one man and his car.

It's 02.00hrs, sorry, 03.00..

Looks like we're not getting any sleep tonight either, it's way too dark at
the  sleeping  place,  and it looks like my bed is occupied anyway,  cheeky
cunt!  Still,  wait  until  daylight  to turf him out,  the polite but firm
approach is best, and also best left to attempt in daylight.

There is more live "entertainment" on stage,  this is an ad-hoc effort by a
crowd   calling  themselves  the  Booz-o-matic  Beats.   I  hate  to  sound
disapproving,  but  I'd  hate to see what this place would be like  if  the
organisers  *condoned* drinking??  Like the day after World War 3 perhaps??
As  it is,  there is an awful lot of debris,  human and otherwise from some
sort of party which is still in progress, mainly on the stage?

  -~< Knights vs Robots >~-
"An  ancient code of chivalry is all very well,  but it is no match for the
superhuman  ability to carry out several hundred repetitive  and  perfectly
completed tasks in a minute!" - A Robot..

"We  do not associate,  or even acknowledge those metallic spawn of  satan.
They merely exist for valorous knights to run their steel through them!"  -
A Knight..

I  think that is probably enough diary for now,  I'll get back to you after
I've  got  some shut-eye.  (So will that be on the 2nd of April  back  home

11.30hrs.  (But  our  body  clock is still happy with it  being  10.30,  so

Well I'm back,  having experienced the nighttime,  or early morning terrors
of the sleeping room for myself.  I got back there around 06.30-07.00,  and
found  that  my  illegally  occupied bed had  been  deserted,  the  illegal
occupant realising that he was pushing his luck somewhat?

The  weird  micro-climate,  where it gets colder near to the floor,  and as
described  earlier  in this report,  was in full force,  but I got to sleep
quickly anyway.  But damn, waking up feeling cold, on a cold mattress, in a
cold sleeping bag, sucks hugely!

Anyway,  I  had  slept enough to 11.00 for now,  so I got up and out of it.
Havoc was on his way there at the time,  so I briefed him on what to expect
there.  Having  had  some  breakfast (supermarket special bread  rolls  and
processed  cheese)  and  a  *hot* cup of caffeine,  I'm  waiting  for  some
tangible  improvements to my cold-befuddled state to take place.  When  you
see those shivering refugees in some rain-swept part of the Balkans, trying
to  scrape  thin  substenance  and a small amount of  cover  from  a  harsh
landscape,  our  nights  spent  at Mekka provide some  insight  into  their
terrible condition!

Sight that sums up this whole party:- About twenty people trying to use the
four sinks available to clean their teeth, all at once!

We have politely suggested to MC Laser that we might have to kill him if he
wants to come back here next year!

The second Dutch/Scandinavian 'joint venture' Atari demo has been completed
and handed in,  the really interesting news is,  that it is going out under
the 'Spice Boys' label. You may all start crying now!

(Reboot needed, as keyboard starts causing trouble, mere minutes after this
Falcy is switched on, CAPSLOCK KEY GETS STUCK>>>>>)

Right now, not too much is happening, but you can tell it's still early, as
the  racket  coming from the stage area is of a more ambient  and  soothing


Now  you might remember this little ascii-based witticism at the  beginning
of the text, right?
    .:::.::.:.  (                                             )_ 
   ':::'' ''::' (All those who think it is hot and noisy now,   ) 
   ::'._   _.:' (wait until you get into the sleeping shed later!)
    c-[_]-[_]}  / '--- --- ----------- ---- ------ ----- - --- --'
    (    _\  )
     \ <__> /

In fact, you do remember, and you're asking, "Well with the prevailing cold
conditions  described  so  brilliantly in this diary,  weren't you  just  a
little  bit *wrong* there?!" So in my defence,  I might suggest that I  was
thinking  of  an alternative definition of "hot and noisy in  the  sleeping 

In  fact,  the  sort  of "hot and noisy" that those people  linked  to  the
network  here,  have  been  swapping enthusiastically all night.  a  flesh-
coloured,  with  carefully trimmed pubic hair sort of "hot and noisy"(!)  A
land where silicon enhancements and bad acting rule!

Now are we all clear here what I was talking about back then? - Good ;-)

It is now 13.34hrs!

PC 64ktro has been and gone.

A lot more of these,  around 18 or 19 to the Amiga 64ktro section which had
three.  Some  high quality efforts,  the last one very much in an oldschool
sense,  using  OpenGL,  and  several others which were up to the quality of
last  night's  Amiga smasher 'Planet Potion'.  But what sort of a  name  is
"Poem for a Horse" anyway??

One  thing which amused me on a lot of these PC 64's.  They started with  a
precalculation progress bar, on a 1.8 ghz PeeCee?! Surely not!

One early entry, which combined sub-LSD visuals, with something done out of
ST-Cad  c.1985  reminded Felice of a children's telly programme  'Ivor  the
Engine'.  Well  it wasn't the Ivor the Engine that I remember,  unless he'd
seen the previously unscreened episode called "Ivor drops loads of Acid and
E's and things get rather odd from there!" (For Welsh UK viewers only.)

Okay,  I feel daring enough to use one of the many facilities here at Mekka
Symp,  is it going to be the toilets? Do I fancy a bit more sleep? If it is
either of those, I do feel like I'm going out on a limb a bit (grin!)

See you a bit later.

I'm back,  I've slept a bit more too,  in accordance with the general rules
for sleeping rough,  that you go for the warmest time of the day,  which is
the  afternoon,  so this time I didn't wake up with incipient  hypothermia.
I've also eaten, staying away from the currywurst, which I liked yesterday,
but I'm not too sure if it liked me that much? And I explored the field out
the  back  of  the  Heider Halle,  which seems to  have  its  own,  loosely
connected version of the party going on. It is quite possible that a lot of
these have hardly been in the main hall at all,  and are here on a renewing
of old acquaintances.

The mystery of the woodsmoke smell around the building was solved, with the
remains of several improvised barbeques in evidence.

"Now can I have my branches back please?" - A tree, yesterday.

The  girlfriend/female  admirer  ratio seems  to  be  significantly  higher
outdoors as well.

Talking  of  which,  I  managed  to  phone Nicky,  and  she  confirmed  the
unfortunate  royal news mentioned about eighteen hours or so  earlier.  She
also confirmed that the coverage of this event was at saturation level,  so
I  feel lucky to be out here,  in spite of the numerous hassles encountered
in the past few days!

Back  in  here,  the temperature is soaring again,  and the C64 music compo
rages over our heads.

Zerkman,  DMA-SC,  and the other Atari Frenchies have left,  not out of any
special  disquiet with the party over and above the standard  gripes,  just
the fact they had to get back today.

Now Nerve has come over to talk to us.  I'm looking forward to his surprise
demo release this evening!  He says that in its present 'party' version, it
still needs a bit of work,  mainly debugging,  and some work in getting the
overall filesize down.  The good news is, that this won't delay any release
of  this  preview version,  which will be available to download,  with  the
properly finished demo to follow later.

Shit, no soap!! I left it behind at Havocs!!

And the soap dispensers in what is laughingly known as the 'bathroom'  have
all run out too.

Better leave the car windows down on the journey back then...

Other news, not a lot really, Felice is worn out after working some more on
his  Lord  of the Rings review for the next issue of Alive!  (grin) He  has
disappeared  in the direction of the chinese restaurant that we visited  on
the Friday evening.

The  MP3 compo is running,  and one of the entries is an extra cheesy remix
of western movie themes,  with added cheese sauce on top. MC Laser, sitting
opposite, reaches for his fingers to put down his throat! This is the score
for the final wild compo entry last night, the German speaking cowboys with
comedy homicidal tendencies who shoot everyone in sight!

MC Laser now reaches for the biggest pair of headphones in the hall, so big
in fact, they could be used as a pair of speakers in their own right?!

What next?

Well  the  Amiga  main demo competition is at 21.00,  with  the  two  Atari
entries to follow afterwards, around 22.30.

I've had my head down over the previous hour, trying to get some additional
rest before the sleeping room reverts back to an all too literal 'chill-out

I've  missed some Commodore 64 pictures,  and I caught the tail-end of  the
32k  games competition,  where someone seems to have put together a curling
simulator.  (Curling,  the  sport  of Olympic choice of mad scottish  women

Havoc and I have relocated our sleeping gear back out of the sleeping shed.
Another  comedy moment as we realise the the warm air actually lasts  until
it is mere inches off the floor, where people are trying to sleep!

One  other disturbing item of news,  there are up to 50(!!) entries for the
PeeCee demo compo.  These will all be variations on a three-dee theme,  and
you will get seven or eight at a time using the same graphics engine.  Will
the  audience  stay  awake?  Will  we care by the end of  it?  It  is  very

Felice has returned for another bash at this Lordy Rings review thing.  And
no  mate,  you're  not imagining that the hall is noisier than it has  ever
been at any other time this weekend. Still, it's nearly all over now :)


Real time note to Felice: Stop reading mine and get on with yours (grin!)

In  the  wait  for those first Amiga demos,  I'm  contemplating  the  party
summing-up stage of my report.  This will wait until after the competitions
are over,  and I'll probably do this at some point tomorrow morning, before
we pack all of this away to go home.

Even  now,  certain  key  words  and phrases are bobbing  up  with  tedious
regularity.  How  about  "Animal  House atmosphere"?  Or  "relentless",  or
"Immature  desperation to attract attention resulted in some of  the  least
attractive forms of drunken behaviour"?

Wait, I've not finished yet....

Not  forgetting  "basic amenities,  normally taken for  granted  elsewhere,
seemed  to  be  in  exceedingly short supply  for  the  numbers  of  people

There  was  some  good  stuff,  and  we'll  hopefully  see  more  when  the
competitions start, so I'll leave it there for now.

More news just in, and it 'aint good!

Organisers  decide to prolong the waiting agony with another  shit  amateur
hour 'live' act,  this time made up from any willing idiots with a lust for
"stardom",  in  spite of them being totally untalented.  So the PeeCee demo
competition will eventually grind to a dead stop, in a lather of saliva and
sawdust at around seven ay-em tomorrow morning?

Switch off for a minute, my brain just has..

Atari  entries  were shuffled out in rather an apologetic fashion.  A  live
video feed was used,  and not a very good quality one at that.  it would be
nice to get back home and see what the entries look like,  when they're not
being  presented as a hastily considered afterthought.  The demo from Nerve
was  most certainly 'different',  and I'd like to see the optimised version
of that on a less dingy looking screen.

One  other  thing,  the  attention  deficit disorder  cases  in  the  seats
opposite, and a bit further down started up again. Should we yell and shout
when the Amiga demos start? I'm sure they'd like it if we did?!

Oh well, better load Sono' again ;)

Amiga demo's now starting...

It really isn't our party at all, is it?!

I'm  not about to get up out of my chair and start yelling "We're shit,  we
are,  we  are,  we  are!" But the Amiga demos lived up to their pre-release
billing.  They  have only just finished,  and the principal entries clearly
show the time, care, attention to detail, and dare I say love? that was put
into this work.  I'd be interested to know,  even with a bigger scene,  and
more people available, how long it takes for these guys to put together one
of these fifteen-minutes plus showings

There  a  still  a couple of entries to come,  those which  failed  on  the
launch-pad, so to speak.

Then it is the long night of the PeeCee demos still to come!

DAY 4!

The Amiga demo machine blew up!

What will happen when the PeeCee demo machine overheats?!?!

We're  still awaiting the PeeCee demo compo.  The really bad news is,  that
there  *are* fifty entries,  and it wasn't my brain on a bad numerical trip
after all. So this is going to take all night/morning.

Felice has gone to the sleeping hut,  all the better to be able to drive us
back  later.  The bad news for him is that a bunch of drunk Polish  coders,
including  the bloke with the priests hat mentioned earlier in this  diary,
are on their way to greet him!

Right  now,  Nerve  is sitting with me,  warming up after the chilling out,
outside. We're just talking about anything and everything, particularly the
propensity  of  the  artificially blonde female with  skimpy  clothing  and
'obvious' attributes a few seats down,  to 'put out' for the members of the
computer  club she patronises.  This is according to some information we've
been  given by fellow travellers who were on the same overnight ferry  from

Now Baggio has joined us,  we have a small party of our own! And Q-Funk has
gone  to bed to say hello to the drunk Polski's who are  probably  swapping
declarations of undying love with Felice right now!

Those  Swedes who are still up are awaiting the end with keen  desperation.
Anxious  phone calls are being made to get ferry captains out of  bed  just
that little bit earlier. Lateness for work tomorrow will not be permitted!

We've  added Deez to the audience and I seem to be the only person  *doing*
anything at the moment??

Nerve  is offering some kind of tobacco product for perverts with no  nerve
endings  left in their mouth's!   (Snus!) I like to keep my mouth where  it
is, so I don't!

The current thinking from the organisers is to pre-select the first  twenty
five  demos,  according to *their* version of what is good,  and show these
first.  I  think  we should cast our votes in the direction of the  unloved
second twenty-five, just to piss them off!

Mouse cursor update! it started moving by itself around the screen, but not
in the usual epileptic fashion. A Deez moment at the controls of the Jagpad
running Power Mouse is implicated!

PeeCee demo compo FINALLY starts..

FIRST PART of PeeCee demo compo stops..

Too  much  to  get  an impression.  First thing,  a lot of them  insist  on
stuffing  as  much  on the screen as they can,  just because it can  do  16
zillion  polys  a  second,  even  if doing that destroys  any  cohesion  or

Weird  thing  that was a fairground in three-dee with trillions  of  polys,
pushing  the  competition hardware to the max as it was chugging in  a  few
places.... Absence half-finished a co-production, where knights that go Ni!
attack  a  village,  but  fall on their arses and die en masse...  Lots  of
hurtling  whirling  flying things in pointless  frantic  motion.  Described
aptly by Baggio as a 3D slideshow, and too many demos did that...

Next, oh I don't know, wait until the morning....

But much against my better judgement, I'm back anyway.

The  second  half  of the PeeCee compo is yet to start,  but I'm  going  to
mostly  ignore  this.  I  was thinking of some sort  of  bed-based  resting
concept, but all the under-tables have already been grabbed, or turned into
storage areas. So it looks like I won't...

So,  the  inexorable  party reckoning and summing up beckons with a  grisly
skeletal finger. It is being animated by some PeeCee demo crew with more 3D
accelerator  than  sense,  so  it  is flying  off  in  sixteen  directions,

Was there some good stuff?

Well  yes,  this almost all came from the strong and continuing  friendship
with those Atari people who did show up.  Friendship is a marvellous thing,
it  gets stronger in times of adversity.  So we reunited,  and closed ranks
against the outrages of the outsiders world. So thanks go firstly to Havoc,
our host pre-party and after,  and also to Creature XL, who would have been
our  host,  but for the forced changes to our travel plans.  A warm word is
due  to MC Laser,  who made this (limited) gathering of the Atari  faithful
possible.  I  think he was expecting rather more than what we actually got,
and I hope he isn't feeling too bad about this party.  We'll see you again,
at a proper Atari party sometime.

Big hi there's go to the Swedes who turned up, especially Baggio, Deez, and
the Nature brothers.  A special hello goes to Nerve, who had the 'nerve' to
put  his  demo  up  for  the competition,  and who  spent  a  lot  of  time
socialising. What a cool guy! And strange but nice to see the Spice Boys do
the  nearest  thing they can to a straight demo,  with their  party  throw-
together. Shame these weren't seen to good effect on the big screen.

We're  not going to forget the other tSCc dudes,  and even Q-Funk turned up
on the back of some Estonian bus trip.  Also Zerkman, DMA-SC, and the other
French  guys  who  arrived with them.  Also anyone else that I  might  have
forgotten, no, actually, I think that was about it?

Other  good things?  Well the fact that there were two releases at all  was
close  to  a  real-life miracle.  And this was in the days  where  all  the
principal  expected  participants  had dropped out and  we  were  expecting
nothing at all.   Well what about the party itself?  Certainly it succeeded
in  its  central  aim which was to gather the international  scene  on  the
biggest platforms,  the PeeCee and Amiga,  and draw an unprecedented number
of new releases,  particularly from the PeeCee.  Outside of Assembly, it is
one of the biggest demo parties anywhere in the world. the organisation was
reasonable,  and  not  heavy-handed,  they  provided  food and drink  at  a
reasonable price.  I managed to control my costs pretty well, coming out of
the  party with 80 Euros to spare.  And I hadn't taken that much in to  it.
(And I had even less, once the 40 Eur entry fee had been paid!)

And  alright,  there were some real ass-kicker demos,  and I would take the
Amiga ones if I had to. their 64ktro's were genuinely fantastic.

Okay, the bit you've all been waiting for, the shitty end of the stick! For
ease of reference, I've decided to divide them up into specific areas, that
is, 'personal' and 'party'.

__The Personal__

The journey there, fogbound traffic delays and missing the boat!

Then hanging around for ages in sunny and interesting Harwich (barp!)

Not getting to meet Creature XL :(

Next to no fuckin' sleep at the party!

__The Party__

No  fucking place to sleep worth a damn.  The sleeping area was a  training 
centre for arctic survival at night!

The fuckwit drunken attention seekers..  People here really don't know when 
to  stop.  A lot of people are acting like it is their first time away from 
their  parents?  A  lot  of  these people have  also  forgotten  they  were 

The  general  'Animal House' atmosphere.  This is normally funny for  about 
five minutes,  but a lot less funny when it is apparent that it is going to 
go on forever, and there isn't really any escape from it!

The organisers being lenient where some firmness might have been needed? 

Operating  a 'no drunkeness' policy,  but selling beer might seem a  little 
bit disconnected, logically speaking? 

The general lack of space, Mekka seemed to operate a "cram 'em in" policy?

The  piss-poor (ahem!) sanitation facilities.  Almost enough toilets,  COLD 
water only,  and a small number of sinks,  four showers available for about 
an hour or so a day! Sad or what?

Do people really enjoy this level of discomfort?

The  entry  fee,  a  hefty  forty Euros was a lot of money   for  what  you 
actually  got,  or  not.  This was cited as a direct reason by a number  of 
Atari people who didn't attend as to why they didn't.

The  Atari  competition  seemed  to be  an  afterthought,  which  took  the 
organisers by surprise?

Such Atari entries that there were weren't shown to best effect on the  big 
screen.  The  jury  is out to see if any blame can be attached or not,  but 
what  we saw would not be acceptable if there was a larger  Atari  presence 

This probably confirms most other scene people's unfair view that the Atari 
scene is lame and insignificant.

And  certain parts of the audience,  those that jeered and shouted  through 
the  screening  of  the Atari demo entries,  should be lightly  culled  and 
buried in unconsecrated ground at midnight!  

Okay,  I'm  off  for tonight,  try to pick this up again when there is some 
daylight. CiH at 05.07hrs.

Probably my last words from the party before I pack this up.

Keyboards do *not* rule for sleeping on!

I will be adding to this report,  in a non-realtime sense,  like when I get
back home, and some form of normal service has been resumed.

We won't be back!

CiH from the Dying remains, 08.52.

                       ---End of Diary---

(The Shitty Afterpart and Some Issues in More Detail..  )

Anyway,  life  goes  on,  and the final morning sees the slow return of the
rest  of our party to the main hall.  Felice has managed to get some sleep,
even  in  spite  of  the  interruption  halfway  through  the  PeeCee  demo
competitions,  when  a horde of drunken people decided to crash out in  the
sleeping  room.  Havoc is as fresh as he can be,  after some hours comatose
underneath the table, and after we've prodded him awake.

It  is  not too difficult to get packed up and ready to go,  and soon,  our
stuff is gathered in neat piles,  and ready to go. A slow trickle of people
carting  monitors  and other computer gear to the main entrance  is  slowly
growing  to a bigger flow,  and we decide the time is right to get ready to
get out.  So we load up the car,  gingerly stepping over the discarded beer
bottles, empty cans,  and the thousand other items of debris left overnight
by  all these 27 year olds acting like they were fifteen!  The car  doesn't
load up *quite* like it did for the way up, but never mind.

The  results and prize-giving ceremony suitably winds things up here,  with
more of that cod-medieval play-acting by the party organisers.  Competition
winners are knighted before they get their prizes.  Some of my own personal
predictions  actually came to be.  A funny little line-cartoon demo  called
'La  Linea',  in  the C64 competitions,  deservedly wins its category.  The
'Planet  Potion'  Amiga 64ktro is unsurprisingly the victor there,  and  in
quite  a close race,  Nerve's demo steals the top spot from the Spice Boys.
(Funny  that,  I'm  sure I was the only one awake enough to vote  from  our
merry little band!?)

After the *great* prizes that the Atari scene got (Copies of the  Symposium
'97,  remixed  to  CD-ROM) it is time for a final round of  handshakes  and
fervently  expressed  farewells  from the  remaining  people  (Scandinavian
scene).  MC Laser and the tSCc gang saw which way the wind was blowing, and
got the hell out in the small sleepless hours,  some time before.  The flow
leaving  the  hall has now become a torrential flood,  but  we've  sensibly
packed,  and are ready to go, and do so, dodging past the first clusters of
party traffic attempting to join the Autobahn.

The  journey back is unremarkable,  with very little in the way of  delays,
and more of that pleasant sunny weather which dominated the whole  weekend.
Fairly  soon,  we are back at Havoc's sixth-floor abode,  and we can sit on
PROPER  comfy  chairs,  and  take a DECENT leisurely shower,  and eat  HUGE
pizzas!  Havoc  seems  to have mostly enjoyed the party,  apart from  those
irritating lapses in facilities which bugged the rest of us, and he reveals
that  he  talked  to quite a few constructive sceners,  as opposed  to  the
drunken  lamers,  and they were quite pleased to see an Atari presence back
at Mekka, with a view to hacking  together possible future releases on 'old
and fascinating systems', such as Atari perhaps?!

We  were in general agreement that we really needed a proper single  format
party, or with Atari as the dominant format, next time.

The  remainder  of  the  day is given over to  rest  and  relaxation,  with
tomorrow  being set as our departure date back home,  via a little  Felice-
inspired diversion to Amsterdam. Now if I'd been a fly on the wall, about a
day into the future,  with the facility to report back to the past, I doubt
that we would have quite been so keen to go to the big city!

It  isn't too hard to get to sleep,  there being a notable shortage of this
commodity at the party, so we do..


DAY 5?

We  are up at around 09.00,  all the better to make an early start,  and to
allow  Havoc  to make his way to an exam.  We part with Havoc,  for what we
think is the final time this Easter.  Some prescient mental niggle stops me
deleting  his  phone  number  off my mobile's  directory.  The  journey  to
Amsterdam  is  fair to middling,  with one or two fair to middling  traffic
delays,  so we make less good time than we thought we would.  A combination
of  park  and ride metro and tram gets us to the city centre,  with  barely
over an hour to explore.

Felice peels off in the direction of his unknown desires,  agreeing to meet
back at the entrance to Central Station, sometime before 14.00hrs. I wonder
absently,  skirting past the red light district,  but spending some time in
the headshop and smokers cafe quarter.  Interesting herbal smells waft from
these  premises,  providing an instant olfactory flashback to our times  at
Mekka!  I locate  the flea market,  the subject of a previous visit,  and I
spend a bit of time there.  The day is unseasonably warm, almost like early

The signs in the city centre tell us to beware of pick-pockets in a variety
of languages,  and I feel my wallet pressed tight in an inside pocket, so I
feel I'm suitably bewaring. But in spite of this, about five minutes before
I'm due to meet Felice, a quick pocket check reveals that the equally vital
little  red  passport has somehow disappeared!  Of course there is a  black
stab of panic,  and a hasty rechecking of every pocket and stray concealing
item   of  fabric,   and  again,   but  the  passport  mocks  me  with  its
disappearance.  I  think momentarily of retracing my steps,  then realising
that time is short, and the passport is not likely to be in friendly hands,
head to Central Station anyway.  I find Felice,  and tell him what is going
on,  and  we  accost a couple of Amsterdam cops standing nearby.  They give
directions  to the nearest police station,  but that will make us miss  the
boat,  so  they  suggest we try to catch the ferry,  and report the loss as
soon as we can after.  Remembering the example of Bilbo and Stick,  and how
they bluffed their way back in,  we decide this is eminently sensible,  and
make like a very fast thing in the general direction of "away".

Getting  back to the park and ride was such a bundle of laughs too,  as  my
travel ticket back, has also taken a leave of absence too, so after various
'comedy'  misdirection hassles to get another ticket,  information  offices
which preferred to stay closed,  we manage to catch the metro back. Then it
is just a case of getting out of the park and ride complex (located at  the
Ajax stadium,  footy fans!) And there,  the way to freedom is barred by the
ticket machine from hell....

When  one  big thing goes wrong,  all the little things that normally  mind
their  business  decide  to join in.  The ticket machine  takes  a  violent
dislike  to my credit card,  deciding to throw up vivid red Dutch abuse  on
the  screen  and  the swallow the card,  which turns into  a  pantomine  of
getting some maintenance man out to unlock the machine to release my  card.
All  of  which means we were finally back on the road about an  hour  later
than  we intended.  There is no way we are going to be on time to catch the
boat,  but we persevere in the direction of the Hoek van Holland,  in order
to best be able to pick up the pieces. As with the journey in, we are late,
but not by very much, and the Stena Discovery has definitely gone.

In the quietened ferry terminal,  we rebook for the following day, and also
look  to  get  some  general  advice  what  to  do  about  my  passportless
predicament.  In this fashion, we get talking to some Dutch Customs people,
whose  attitude  was laid back to the point where one of them said  that  I
could  produce a piece of toilet paper for all they cared,  and that  would
let me travel.  Of course, the interesting part would come when it was time
to  convince the UK immigration authorities that I was a  bona-fide  Brit..
This  doesn't  help that much,  and no-one else is really sure what  to  do
there, and so our thoughts turn to getting hold of the British Consulate to
see what they might suggest.

This  leaves a problem of what to do overnight,  and we meander back in the
general  direction of Havoc's part of the Netherlands,  but taking time out
at a service station,  just before we got to Utrecht,  to make contact with
Havoc.  He is initially surprised to hear from us, but he is willing to put
up with us for another evening. Whilst we're waiting at the service area, I
spot  Felice's frequent traveller individual travel insurance,  and then  I
spot the emergency 24 hour assistance number... More expensive phone calls,
ho hum...   After a little initial confusion, where I have to convince them
I'm  not  actually the policyholder,  and I'm just wanting some  key  phone
numbers, I manage to get the British Embassy number (for Den Hague, not the
Amsterdam  Consulate)  out of them.  The British Embassy keep  strictly  to
office hours, so that will have to wait until tomorrow then.

We  wind  up back at Havoc's,  sometime around 21.30hrs,  and make our  way
back.  More pizza turns up, and in spite of being a little downhearted, and
not initially feeling that interested in food,  it tastes wonderful. Whilst
we  are there,  we do get to see one or two extra little goodies on Havoc's
Wintel  box,  such  as some oldskool classic demo effects that he  has  put
together,  as  part  of some college-based multimedia study.  Also,  he has
started  on  his  own Mekka party report,  and we get to read the  first  8
kilobytes of that, and it looks highly promising.

Then it is bedtime,  and in spite of today's traumatic events, not too hard
to get to sleep at all..

DAY 6!? - Extra day!

We  rise  fairly early,  all the better for me to get in contact  with  the
British Embassy,  for that crucial travelling advice.  After a false start,
where the Embassy proper at the Hague refers me to the Amsterdam Consulate,
I am told that  all I need to do,  is to get a police report.  This will be
enough to let me travel,  and  I don't need to  travel back to Amsterdam, a
local report from  the  station at Enschede will be sufficient! I instantly
feel a lot better!

After  breakfast,  we bus down to what is the rather smart looking regional
police  headquarters,  posh  reception area and all.  Doing the business is
straightforward, with a mumsy sympathetic female desk sergeant. She doesn't
ask  for the documentation that I have got when I offer,  saying that if it
turns  out  I'm not who I say I am,  then the UK authorities have  got  the
power  to  arrest  me!  Clutching  the vital signed  piece  of  paper  very
carefully, we make our way back to Havoc's part of town.


I like the Dutch word for 'Police' - "Polite" It implies a wholly different 
approach to the sordid business of policework, as in "We're very very sorry 
we're  going  to have to arrest you!" The Dutch uniformed guys  of  various 
services emerge with some credit out of this sorry affair.

Back at Havoc's,  we trawl around the local shopping centre for last minute
souvenirs, and  vaguely  risible chocolate confectionary items.  (Hell,  it
worked,  Nicky found the Mini-Dickmans hilarious, but then again, it's easy
to make her laugh, I do it all the time by merely existing!)

We while away a bit more time,  until we decide to head off, shortly before
midday, in a manner which allows us plenty of time to get back to the Hook.
The  journey  back,  in  total contrast to yesterday's  panicked  rush,  is
straightforward, with not even a solitary traffic-jam to bar the way. It is
as if the demo-making gods are smiling on us, and have just optimised their
road drawing-routines.  So we arrive back at the Hook,  with ages to spare,
and we grab a meal,  and then nervously confront the hurdle of getting onto
the  ferry.  I  produce my police report,  and the check-in person  doesn't
register anything as out of the ordinary. Next the customs, and they glance
at the report,  and wave it away,  clearly not interested at all.  We're in
the  forecourt  gathered  and waiting to get on  the  ferry,  first  hurdle

The  ferry is on time,  and we board,  grabbing our usual seats by the bar.
The  ferry  sets sail when it should,  and there is just the matter of  the
four  hours  to kill before the next big test.  Will I be able to get  back
into the UK?!

Time - goes - ever - so - slowly -

Still  remembering  the example of Bilbo and Stick,  remembering that  they
managed to get back without a passport, but not quite remembering what they
had  to  do,  and how much hassle they got whilst doing it.  I re-read  the
relevant  article  in  Maggie issue 8 afterwards,  and they summed  up  the
critical  moment when they faced the UK immigration authorities, in  a  few
terse words about the person on the counter trying to out-psych them for a
bit, before letting them through.

With  a certain amount of foreboding,  we drive off the ferry,  into a huge
queue  waiting  to go through the immigration control.  The queue winds  in
slowly,  ever  closer  to  the  moment  of destiny,  and I  produce  a  sad
expression,  and  the copy of that police report which was instrumental  in
getting  us on the boat in the first place.  The UK customs guy is a genial
sort,  and  seems  to  think this is okay.  He asks if I've got  any  other
identification,  and  I  am able to produce a number of plastic cards  with
signatures  on them,  matching the one on the police report,  including the
clincher, a 1984-vintage specimen on an organ donor card. He's seen enough,
we are allowed to go!

WE'RE FREE AT LAST, and this qualifies, by a long way, as the best and most
enjoyable  moment of the whole party!  Felice starts some serious  hurtling
homewards,  into  a blood-red sunset,  whilst I phone up various interested
parties,  including  a  relieved Havoc,  who is not having to put us in his
apartment for a third night.

We reach our respective domiciles, more or less at the time we expected to,
and  that  is  the conclusion of one of the most  eventful,  and  stressful
weekends of our partygoing lives..

       Mekka Issues and conclusions 
          (To add to main report.)

Well  what  a fantastic party that was,  drowning in drunken lamers,  faced
with a choice of staying awake or freezing to death, and with a PeeCee demo
competition that never seemed to end, was Mekka, for Atarians at least, the
lame event of the century?

You will have seen my views which were drawn up in the heat of the  moment,
written  into  the realtime party diary,  and there isn't really a  lot  to
change from there.  What I am going to do,  is to bring out in more detail,
some  impressions of events and people from the party,  which were  glossed
over  in  the  diary,  and then maybe fit them together into some  sort  of

The  sleeping tent was a good idea which fell apart fatally in its  botched
execution.  On  the  face  of it,  the organisers seem to have  thought  of
everything,  by  providing a heat source for what is a temporary structure.
But  a lack of draughtproofing at floor level,  and a door which refused to
stay closed, created a freakish microclimate where the space closest to the
floor was as cold as the night air outside!  What is more incredible to me,
a first time attendee of the Mekka party, is that this arrangement had been
in  use before.  I can't believe that no-one has mentioned the rather large
flaws  described  above?  Maybe a lot of the people in the main  hall  were
getting drunk to enable them to block out and ignore the freezing nighttime

The Heidmark Halle was quite good in some respects.  It managed to fit in a
party the size of Mekka,  with a thousand-plus people.  On reflection,  the
hall  was  pretty  full,  but  not as tight as the  venue  I  remember  for
Symposium  '96.  However  it  was  clearly inadequate in  some  areas.  The
sanitation facilities were overloaded at times, and washing facilities were
almost  totally lacking.  In their favour,  I remember that these were kept
clean, which must have been very brave of someone!

The  normal  use of the Heidmark Halle was discovered by Havoc,  who did  a
much  better  job as a roving reporter at the party than I did.  It is  the
'home  ground' for a handball team.  Handball is a popular sport in Germany
and  central  Europe.  The huge width of the hall is explained by the  fact
that there is normally stadium style seating at each side.  This can seat a
crowd of around a thousand or more.

There were some other 'environmental' issues worthy of note.   Mekka was the
noisiest and dirtiest  party  I've ever been to,   at least in the main hall
area.   This  would  have been down to the high numbers attending in a small
space,   many  of  whom  were not really responsible for their actions for a
lot  of  the time!   Baggio  became ill there,   this is not surprising with
the  noise and stress and golden opportunities for cross infection.   It  is
not  so  fanciful  to   speculate  that if the party was  left  to  its  own
devices  for  another three  days,  it might be interesting to see what sort
of antibiotic-immune superbug would come along!  Then if you left this toxic
mixture  for another three  weeks,   everything  in the main hall would have
turned into a  brown sludge!?

Many  non-Atarians  did come up to see us in a spirit of  curiousity.   They
wanted  to know what the Atari could do these days,   so I showed them!  One
chap  got  a decent eyeful of last year's 'Hmmm demo'.   He  was  pleasantly
surprised,  and said that this was just like an Amiga demo, and seemed to go
against what his friends said about Atari being a lame system.

I  spoke to the one other British person who came to Mekka,   I forget  your
name,   sorry chap.  This confirms the dire state of the UK demo scene, even
for  more  popular  formats  like  the  PC  and  Amiga.   According  to  his
information,   there is one active coder working within a multinational crew
a la Tat,  and no current UK groups left!! It seems that our old friend, the
games industry is to blame.  Clearly, the coders and other scene people have
been  scooped  up  by their intellectual slash and  burn  tactics,   leaving
nothing  behind.   It  is ironic that we may be one of the  most  'numerous'
remaining UK scenes,  with the Res Gods back in town, if that information is

We  managed  to avoid the bane of Symposium '96,   which  was  theft-related
losses.   Other  people  at Mekka weren't so lucky,  with a couple of people
losing  major items like mobile phones and wallets.   "Geez,  what's up with
you people!?" was one heartfelt plea from the organisers.   On a related sad
and  dodgy note,   my passport stayed with me at all times when I was at the
party, and it didn't go missing until afterwards!

Atari-Specific stuff.

Nerve was the discovery of the party.   Known on the scene for a while,  but
not  known  to  me,   he really  was  a nice guy.  We chatted a lot,  and my
favourite anecdote was about when he and a friend fell asleep when  stopping
in  the middle of a car journey.   They left the engine running and woke  up
about 6 to 7 hours later, half a fuel tank used up going nowhere!

He  suggested that after his party demo release,   there would be more  from
him  in  the  future.   He had already coded a 3-D world engine  capable  of
effects  comparable  with some of the more interesting  Amiga  demos.   This
featured things like multiple layers of transparency etc,   but this was too
slow on a standard Falcon. He awaits his CT60 as keenly as the rest of us!

There  was  a strong tSCc presence,   and so there should be,  with MC Laser
cheerleeding  the idea of Atari at the party.   Scy and Dynacore sat next to
me,   they  were  nice  guys,  who  were pretty quiet,  kept  themselves  to
themselves,   and  busy  on  their PCs.  Ray also turned up,  he showed some
Falcon  effects but I didn't see those.   Those people 'in the know'  reckon
these weren't the fastest versions he had with him?

We  were lucky to get two entries for the demo competitions.   One of  these
(Nerve) was totally unexpected,   the other was an in-party effort,  created
from  whatever spare source code was lying around,   and some graphics  that
Havoc  created  in  his  sleepless  nights.   Of the  three  demos  we  were
originally  going  to  get,   the two Falcon demo's,  tSCc and Mind  Design,
succumbed  to  multiple hardware failure.   There seems to be a lot of  that
thing  around  at  the  moment?!   And the other demo,  arguably  even  more
interesting,   and  coming  from a certain Dresden-based ST  coding  wizard,
didn't show, when he didn't... Maybe look out next Easter for that one?!

Coming to some conclusions.

It could have been so different if another twenty or thirty people had  made
the  trip.  Then  the  pre-party  expected trio of  demo  entries  may  have
materialised in addition to the two that did make it.  Then if they had been
properly  shown in the competitions,  maybe we'd be judging this party quite
differently. We may even had been calling it a success?!

But this was Mekka,  and I think a lot of people who may have come, were put
off  by the concept of a very large multi-scene party.  I'm pretty sure that
you will never get a large Atarian attendance at an event like this.  It was
brave of MC Laser to try, but I don't think even he will want to repeat what
happened (or not) this Easter.

There may have been all sorts of individual reasons for those people who did
make it.  Some people were there,  simply because there was no other show in
town. Others,  only  used  to smaller scale gatherings,  were curious to see
what  one of these big parties was really like.  Others still may have  been
genuinely  interested in the progress of the other parts of the demo  scene,
and  I'm sure all of us were expecting a bit more than we actually got.  Now
we  know  what the sound and fury of a big multiscene demo party  is  really
like. I get the impression in the majority of cases, that people's curiosity
has  been  well and truly satisfied,  and that they are not planning  to  go
again next year!

It is interesting to compare this party with the 1996 Symposium party.  Back
then,  the scene was in transistion.  The Atari crowd were expecting another
Fried Bits party,  and the Amiga and PeeCee crowds did what they always did.
The Atari people were put off to the extent that they effectively reconvened
the  single format Fried Bits party,  under a different name,  the following

Coming  back in 2002 shows how wide the gap has got between the Atari  scene
and  the others expectations from a coding party.  The six years in  between
developments  have  put  the Atari scene,  and the rest,  on  different  and
diverging  paths.  Mekka Symposium 2002 showed that there is no easy way  of
putting  the two together again.  For if you try to,  it will be the smaller
scene that suffers.

So,  for next Easter, it is essential that a single format party is revived,
whether  it  is another in the successful Error in Line series,  or at  some
other  location,  I'm  not  fussy,  but I *really* don't want to go  through
another Easter like this one!

CiH - For Alive! Mag,April '02

Alive 5