28 February 2013

The Summer Fire Safety Campaign: My parents' bushfire story.

This post is sponsored by the Victorian Government's Department of Justice.


It is my parents' 32nd wedding anniversary today, so it's fitting that they've written pieces for this blog post. Happy anniversary Mum and Dad. 

I was asked by the Victorian Government's Department of Justice to write a blog post on bushfire safety. I am a city girl now, but bushfires have come close to my parents, so I've let them tell their story.
I grew up in country New South Wales – the summers are hot and dry. The scenery of my youth was gum trees, dirt roads and paddocks. Farmers burnt off in their paddocks. Smoke wafted from the incinerators at the local rubbish tip. I learnt a little about fire safety at primary school, but I never had to put the “stop drop and roll” lesson into practice. We were always safe. We had been very lucky with not having any bushfires nearby. Bushfires were always somewhere else, they never happened to us, but the smoke blackening the sky served a stern reminder to take precautions.

Back in 2009, when I first started writing this blog, I wrote this post about how close bushfires came to my parents, dogs and house. On 17 December 2009, I received an email from a colleague who works in the Albury office of my organisation. There were bushfires in Gerogery, she said, and were my parents ok? I panicked. I thought about the destruction and tragedy the Black Saturday bushfires had caused earlier that year – how quickly they moved and how many lives were lost. 173.

Another email came through. Were my parents ok? What about their dogs? They were at home in their run, no where to go. My parents were at work in Albury, 20 minutes away. My parents are diligent in ensuring their house is clear of trees and debris, and the grass is kept short, but others surrounding them may not have been as fire ready.

I called my parents, phones rung out. Power was out in Albury because of storms, and I couldn't get onto my Dad. The phone at my Mum's work rang out, again and again. I rang her best friend at work, panicked. Did she know there were fires in Gerogery? She didn't. She left work straight away. I rang my parents' next door neighbour. He was asleep, off work sick. He wasn't aware of the fire nearby until I called him. He went outside and saw the fire, a few kilometres away. He was safe, and our dogs were too. I finally got onto my Dad, on his mobile. He was stuck in traffic on his way home. Here's his story.

“It was a hot day with a wind and a sky that I've never seen since.

One of my work colleagues alerted me to the fire close to where I live.

I hopped in my car immediately & headed for home. First I had to encounter the northern suburbs of Albury where wind had strewn the road with debris. Traffic lights were out & there had been a car crash. Police were directing traffic but it was chaos.

I got through & raced out of town towards the fires. I was trying to phone my wife at the same time to let her know of the danger.

I kept to the speed limit but I had an impatient local behind me racing to take up his role in the local fire brigade.

Once home, I met my neighbour at his front gate. He was drinking a stubbie of VB with a mate of his & it wasn't long before I was joining them.

We watched the plumes of smoke & the planes that were backwards & forwards with loads of water to drop on the fires as we listened to the CB radio.

Our discussion was about whether we should go or stay & what if we were over 0.05.

We stayed. The emergency message came up on our phones to evacuate but at the moment the rain began to fall. We stayed.

Reflecting on the situation, we didn't know how close the fire was or whether we could get down the road to escape. We had an artificial feeling of safety where it could never happen to us.

Our dogs were our prime concern but all was well.

The fire scene was cordoned off & it was only several days later that we realised how lucky we had been.”

My Mum writes:

The day started with very hot and strong winds. I went to work as normal and as the day progressed the winds got worse. At about 1.30 my daughter Carly rang me to alert me to the fires burning in Walla Walla and Gerogery. I told her I would confirm this with one of my neighbours, but then Roger rang and told me he was home and I should get home immediately.

Driving home was the longest trip which normally would take about 25 - 30 minutes seemed like hours. The sky was a brown eerie looking trees were down and part of the major highway was closed due to debris on  the road. Listening to the radio it was said that roads to Gerogery/Walla Walla were being closed. I put my foot down and thought of what I was going to say, why I should be at home etc. The thought of the dogs being on their own and trapped came to mind.

I can't describe how I felt.....scared and worried.  The smoke  by now was getting thicker and it reminded me of the fog we normally have in winter. I needed to concentrate on getting home. My main concern was Roger, the dogs and our sheep. I finally got home and left my car at the top of the driveway just in case.  Roger and his car was parked at the dog run. Looking down from the dog run we could see thick smoke and flames....about 2km from our property. We listened to the police on the UHF radio and we found we were not in immediate danger, although if the wind changed direction, it could be a different story.

By this time my neighbour was out too,  hosing down his house and he was waiting for his wife to get home.

I came into the house, went through the motions of collecting things to put in the car.....bottles of water for the dogs, change of clothing for us, laptops and mobile phone... I did however feel like I was in another world, I can't say I panicked but the feeling was very eerie......

For about three hours we were watching the wind and flames feeling useless, should we stay or leave and the rains came and it poured......relief. By this time we received a message telling us to evacuate and meet at the nearest petrol station. We felt we were safe then.

We watched the news that night and realised how ferocious the fires were and how many houses were lost. How nobody died was a miracle.”

The bushfires in Gerogery destroyed five homes, burnt out 7,000 hectares of land and killed 115 head of cattle and 1,200 sheep. It started at the Walla Walla rubbish tip. An original news article can be viewed here

My parents were so very lucky. That day taught them to be more vigilant with trees and debris on their property, and they have had ongoing discussions about whether they are prepared to stay and defend, or whether they will leave their home should a bushfire happen again. 

Summer Fire Safety Campaign
The Victorian Government's Department of Justice is coordinating the Summer Fire Safety Campaign which aims to increase Victorians’ preparedness to respond to the threat of fire.

The most common myths in relation to fire are:

MYTH: Code Red days happen all the time.
FACT: Code Red days are rare. There have been two Code Red Days in the last three years. Code Red is the highest Fire Danger Rating. Houses in Victoria are not designed or constructed to withstand fires on these days.

My parents (on the border of NSW and Victoria) have only experienced two code red days in the last three years.

MYTH: It will be safe to leave even if I can see fire.
FACT: Roads might be blocked, thick smoke will make it difficult to see, the fire could travel faster than you drive and fires can leap highways. Every minute you wait, it gets closer.

MYTH: CFA will be able to send a fire truck or come to my rescue.
FACT: If the CFA is fighting fires, they can’t be knocking on doors. It’s your responsibility to make the best possible decision for your family based on the current Fire Danger Ratings and official warnings for your area. It’s up to you to know when to leave.
TRIM ID: CD/13/37203 Page 2 of 7Summer Fire Ready 2013 Fire Myths Kit
It is critical for your safety to check more than one source for warnings. On high-risk days, monitor the conditions around you. Get the most up to date information through:
  • cfa.vic.gov.au
  • FireReady App
  • Emergency broadcasters: ABC Local Radio, commercial radio and designated community radio stations
  • SKY NEWS television
  • Victorian Bushfire Information Line: 1800 240 667
  • CFA social media such as Facebook and Twitter: @CFA_Updates
  • You may also receive an alert sent to your landline or mobile phone based on its billing address or location (for Telstra customers only) through the Emergency Alert System.

MYTH: I can easily defend against fires; I am prepared and have experience.
FACT: You can’t prepare for all fires. You need a well thought-out bushfire survival plan which has been agreed and discussed with members of the household. Leaving early is always the safest option.

MYTH: Fire Danger Ratings are just a weather gauge.
FACT: A Fire Danger Rating tells you how bad a fire would be if one started, including how
difficult it would be to put out. The higher the rating, the more dangerous the conditions.

MYTH: Winter has been very wet so there’s less chance of a fire in summer.
FACT: Rainfall fuels the growth of vegetation, especially grass, creating more fuel for fire. In years of wet weather, Victoria often sees an increase in the number of large grassfires. It only takes two weeks of hot, dry and windy weather to create dangerous fire conditions.

MYTH: All barbecues are banned on a Total Fire Ban day.
FACT: Solid and liquid-fuel barbecues and ovens are banned on Total Fire Ban days. You can still use gas or electrical barbecues that are fixed appliances – built into permanent structures of brick, stone or concrete – provided you adhere to the guidelines for use located at http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/warnings-restrictions/can/. Portable gas or electric barbecues are also allowed if they are commercially manufactured exclusively for meal preparation and you ensure they are in a stable position when alight.

MYTH: If we do decide to leave early, we will be able to go to the local Neighbourhood Safer Places.
FACT: Neighbourhood Safer Places are places of last resort only when all other plans have failed, and do not guarantee safety. They are sometimes just an open space (e.g. a football oval) with limited facilities. There isn’t a Neighbourhood Safer Place in every community.

For additional information, please refer to the following:
Country Fire Authority (CFA)
Website: www.cfa.vic.gov.au  

Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB)
Website: www.mfb.vic.gov.au  

Department of Sustainability and Environment

27 February 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Last night I had dinner with a friend - at Grandparent O'Clock. We went to Wonderbao and Spring Street Grocer. Delicious. Can you believe I had goat's curd icecream?!

That street art is by Ghostpatrol.

Also, I'm on Kiki and Tea today, sharing my Disaster Chef moments.


26 February 2013

Dare to dress up on a White Night (thanks to Target).

I'm a Target blogger!

This is a sponsored post. Target provided me with vouchers to go shopping and will pay me for this post. Opinions are my own.

Target black top and heart necklace
On Saturday night, I excitedly headed to the city for dinner with Sandra and then on to the White Night Festival. The White Night Festival was an overnight art festival - bringing music, dance art, and light shows to the city. I was looking forward to the writers camp at the Wheeler Centre, and seeing the lights, but I was not prepared for the large crowds. Oh the crowds. More about that later.

We decided on a cheap progressive dinner (it made spending $25 for three courses and a drink all the more fancy!). We started with rice paper rolls, and then I overcame my fear of dumplings at a little place in China Town. We finished dinner with a piece of cake each from a Greek patisserie. Delicious. I love dining with a food blogger. We never run out of things to talk about, and we never have to ask each other permission to take photos of our food.

Before dinner and taking outfit photos, we stumbled across some street art and live hip hop in Tattersall's Lane. I saw this one just off that lane, in Stevenson Lane. Here we are now, entertain us.
And after dinner, we set off to White Night, first stop was The Wheeler Centre where we saw one of my literary heroes, Sean M Whelan, perform some poetry. He was brilliant - alliterative, evocative and funny. A beautiful talent. Sandra and I met up with Karen, Carli and Carli's sister Liza too - lovely to see these ladies again. My initial plan was to stay at the Centre and write, but then I was enticed by talk of the light and art around the city. Only, there were crowds. I've never seen so many people in the city of Melbourne. It was a slow pedestrian crawl, rubber necking to look at the pretty things. Carli, Liza, Sandra and I walked down Swanston Street, taking it all in. We saw a catwalk in a lane way, live music, street artists and many many people. It could have been more accessible and participatory had it not been for the thick crowds, but that was also the magic of it. Sam McHugh tweeted "#whitenightmelb: Earth Hour's nemesis". I laughed - so many lights used and power cables over the roads.
Here are some of my favourite sights of the night.
The State Library of Victoria.
A shadow play at City Square - this was fun - seeing the children interacting with the shadow characters. There was an audio story being told too.
Projections on the windows of St Paul's Catherdral - Sandra made a great point - funny that they'd projected AFL, where fans are fanatics to the point of religious, on a religious building.
The Yarra River, westward. There were light fountains looking east, but the crowd was too thick to look through comfortably.
And the jewel of the night (that I managed to walk to anyway - my face was getting sore - and yes, a sore face does affect my desire to walk!): Flinders Street Station. There was a rock concert on the stage too.
Isn't it beautiful?

White Night was pretty special. I loved how pretty Melbourne looked, and how many people celebrated this great city. I am excited about next year's. Were you there too?

So, about what I wore. I love Target, it's my go-to store for workwear (I like their dresses, pencil skirts and short length trousers), their pieces fit me well amd often I can avoid trying them on due to their consistency in sizing, and I also like that I have so many pieces that make people say "huh?! that's not from Target!". Like my coral lace dress and black pleather jacket. Target has a really great selection of women's clothing - I mostly buy from the City Dressing, Hot Options and Limited Editions ranges. I have also recently picked up some Target Essentials basic tops and bonds undies which I'm really happy with.

Target sent me shopping earlier in the week. The brief they gave me was dare to dress up. I had great visions of me moseying through the store, taking my time choosing the perfect outfit. But instead I found myself there one hour before closing time, doing a power shop because I thought I'd cram as much into my day by scheduling a phone meeting after work, cooking a meal and remembering just in time to get money out for my cleaner (note: first world problems hey?!).

I took a brisk walk through my local Target (one of two - I have a large store which I shopped at last week, and an Urban store within five minutes drive of my house - I like Urban for the up-to-the-minute range of women's fashions) and headed straight for the dresses. Though I couldn't find any that I liked. They seemed very conservative for my tastes. I rifled through the clearance racks (so many of them, such low prices) - but nothing piqued my interest. I then looked at Hot Options, and to be honest, the colours didn't grab me. I was a little disappointed. I have loved the brights and florals of spring/summer, and now the tones are more muted - lots of bottle green and burgundy - reminded me of a bag I sewed in year eight textiles class.

So then I located my old faithful, the Limited Editions section. I can always count on this range to find something that I like. I have a lot of work clothes from Limited Editions. I thought I would use my voucher to buy something that I wouldn't ordinarily buy - black and trousers. And luckily, there were some beautiful tailored trousers and interesting luxe tops to fit the brief.

Here's what I chose:

Target black pants and top
A slinky jersey Limited Editions top with pleather trim ($49.95) and black jacquard print straight leg Limited Editions pants ($59.95). I like that theese pieces can be dressed up or down - I can wear them both with denim, and I can wear the top with a skirt or even layered over a dress with leggings. The top is actually short sleeved (you can't quite see it because of my love of layering) and is a really flattering fit. I need to take the hem of the pants up, but overall they fit very well and make my legs look long and slim.

Target black pants and top
I wore some silver bangles and a bracelet I made myself (navy sunstone) and a Red Phoenix Emporium necklace (the long white one, gifted), plus another Target necklace (the heart) that I picked up for $5.40 after that initial shopping trip. I love the heart - especially its woven fluro wire. Received lots of compliments on it. I wore the same shoes that I had for my year 10 formal. Back in 1997!! Yes, they still fit and are quite comfortable. See how the pants have a pretty floral black on black print?
Target black pants
Later on, in the cool of the aircon, I put on my shiny shiny jacket - a buy from Target in September 2012.
Target black pants and top and  sparkly jacket
That was me in a beanbag at the Wheeler Centre. Of course I chose the purple one. I am not sitting very graciously. Beanbags are heaps of fun, but very hard to get out of! Sandra made me laugh: "It took seven years of yoga to get my ageing hips out of that beanbag #downwarddogfacing", she tweeted! Oh the awkwardness!

Thanks for the lovely night amd for taking outfit photos Sandra, and thanks to Target for having me as a Target Blogger!

Please note: I am a Target Blogging Ambassador, and this is the first in a series of sponsored posts.

25 February 2013

Donate Life. The most loving thing you can do for a stranger

It's Donate Life Week from 24 February - 3 March, and I urge you to consider registering to be an organ or tissue donor, as well has having the conversation about your wishes with your family.

The Donate Life website states:

"In 2012, 354 organ donors gave 1,052 Australians a new chance in life. The number of organ donors and transplant recipients in 2012 was the highest since national records began.


The majority of Australians are generally willing to become organ (80%) and tissue (78%) donors. Only around 1% of people actually die in hospital in the specific circumstances where organ donation is possible. The circumstances in which you can become a tissue donor are less limited. In Australia the family will always be asked to confirm the donation wishes of the deceased before donation can proceed. In Australia less than 60% of families give consent for organ and tissue donation to proceed. The most important thing that helps a family's decision is their knowing the wishes of their loved one."

As at 31 December 2012, just over 1 Million Australians had registered their decision to become an organ donor. You can view the registration statistics on the Medicare website.

Around 1600 people are on Australian organ transplant waiting lists.


Until recently, my beautiful friend Camille was on that transplant waiting list, desperate for new lungs. She is in her 30s, so very talented, and lived life to the fullest that she could, with chronic lung disease and being restricted by the waiting list. She was given the gift of life from an incredibly generous donor, with their family's permission.

She writes about her gift of life over here

I can't imagine what Cam went through while waiting for her new lungs. She is the bravest, least complaining person I know. I saw her frustration at times, and wished that she'd get the call soon.

After she got the call from the donor coordinator, she texted me in the middle of the night, to tell me she was on her way to hospital. "Fingers crossed, I love you" I wrote back. The day was long - I checked in with her sister for news every few hours. Her own wait must have been tumultuous.

Her recovery will be long, but my gosh I've seen progress. I went to visit her two weekends ago. She was in high spirits, talking a mile a minute. I am so happy she's here.We took some photos of ourselves together - the first we have taken in our three year friendship. Because we are too busy taking pictures of food.
I gave her some presents- a toy cat and some art supplies and nail polish, because now she can paint her nails! Look at the colour in her cheeks! Isn't she beautiful!

She's made considerable progress since my first vist. She's now able to breathe without the assistance of oxygen.

I said to Camille, I met her because of her old lungs. She and I both write for the disability website Divine. I tracked her down on Facebook after I read her article about being a blogger. And we became friends. The first time I met her in person she was in hospital too. I also said to her that her new lungs will enable us to share laughs and cake for years to come.

Cam has a pinboard next to her bed in the hospital ward. It's filled with pictures from her nephews, cards and pretty coloured paper. There's also a list of things she will do now she's got new lungs. Ride a bike. Walk. Go on a holiday. Shoot hoops. The things that most people take for granted. I added to that list. See bands with Carly.

And we will. I can't wait.

Camille is a huge INXS fan and I can't help think how apt the line "we all have wings, but some of us don't know why" is to her situation. I am so grateful to her donor and their family.

Please consider registering your decision to become an organ or tissue donor. Those on the waiting list need the gift of life. They're someone's daughter, someone's sister, someone's friend. My friend. It's the most loving thing you can do for a stranger.

Visit www.donatelife.gov.au for more information.


There's a little competition for Donate Life Week called FilmLife. Now Camille is recovering from her transplant, I've been appointed a judge of the competion. You may want to enter, or know someone who is eligible to enter. 

FilmLIfe project is using creativity to spark vital conversations about organ and tissue donation in young people. Using filmmaking and blogging to create awareness provides a fresh approach to this life saving social issue. 
We are inviting young filmmakers aged 16-28 to submit a film using the theme of DonateLife Week 2013: Make your wish count. Discover, decide and discuss organ and tissue donation”.

The deadline for all film submissions is midnight on 25 March. Winners will be announced at the FilmLife Festival official screening on 13 April.

Awards will be given for the Best Film, Best Interpretation of the Theme and the People’s Choice award. Filmmakers get national exposure for their work through the DonateLife network and be in the running for great prizes including the Canon 5D and over $2500 in prizes. This we will also have a prize for the best blog in our Blogging challenge.

For more details and information about FilmLife workshops, blogging comp and film festival please go to www.filmlife.com.au, join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

23 February 2013

My essay on a Kurt Cobain biography. I arrived late to the Nirvana party.

I got to do some pretty cool assignments through my Masters of Communication. Gone were the days of economics supply and demand models of my undergraduate degree - I seriously thought we were going to make models out of playdough and farm animal toys, like little dioramas - and I was seriously disappointed when I soon found out supply and demand models were just lines on a page and took a lot of brain power for this literary minded student. The Masters of Communication was quite free range - my assignments were very varied and mostly focused on my personal interests. The presentation on Pacific Brands was the most homage I paid to my undergraduate degree. I wrote essays on my organisation's social media policy, I studied emerging media which included making a blog, I pitched a magazine concept, I presented on journalism and trauma examining the coverage Port Arthur Massacre, I analysed films at the Melbourne International Film Festival and I reviewed some food at a restaurant for a feature article on molecular gastronomy. 

The most obscure assignment I did was for Literary Journalism where I studied literary biography. And of course I centred this essay around Kurt Cobain's biography called 
Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R Cross. Until recently I had only ever read Kurt Cobain biographies. I have about seven of them - plus Kurt's journals and Cobain Unseen featuring his artwork. The other month, Dad posted me an old biography that a library was throwing out. 

I became a fan of Kurt and Nirvana through reading Heavier than Heaven in 2002. 10 years after Nevermind. Better late than never. When Nirvana were at their peak, I was a little bit scared of them. My babysitter, Nat, and her friends were all at highschool, kissing posters of Prince, Kurt Cobain and Simon Baker Denny. I was still a staunch Kylie Minogue fan, and a fan of whatever wasn't too loud or too rude. I wish I was a fan of Nirvana at their peak - it would have been great to be amid that fandom.

Heavier Than Heaven is one of the better biographies I have read. And interviewing Charles Cross by email made me feel really cool. Two degrees or separation, and all that.

I was drawn to Kurt's vulnerability - to the paradox between his fame and need for privacy. He had an illness, and he had talent. I guess I was drawn to the fact he was troubled, and like many of the men I've loved, saw potential that he could be fixed in some way, yet still maintain the elements that made him so beautiful. Even though he was long gone, taken by his own decision. 

It was Kurt's birthday on Wednesday - he would have been 46. I wonder what sort of person he would have been? I wonder if he'd continue to make music? I remembered the essay I wrote, and though it may be wanky to post it here, I am going to do so. A good friend and fellow Kurt Cobain fan encouraged me to do so. Thanks for reading.

The successful literary biographer is an investigator of the spirit’
(WH Auden)

Discuss the way in which Charles R Cross investigated Kurt Cobain’s spirit, in ‘Heavier than Heaven - the biography of Kurt Cobain’.

Heavier than Heaven’, the Kurt Cobain Biography written by Charles R Cross in 2001 could be described as a book length piece of journalism. However, the research that Cross has undertaken and the style he has written it in, demonstrates that it is more than just a hard news story, it is a literary biography. Cross has created scenes of Cobain’s life, drawn from facts and interviews, and a “human” representation of Cobain shines through Cross’s writing.

A biography is a record, in words, of something that is as mercurial and as flowing, as compact of temperament and emotion, as the human spirit itself’ (Edel 1973, p.1). The biographer must present the history of the subject in a logical and believable order, and include facts to represent the subject in an honest way. Edel (1973, p.1) says that the biographer’s craft allows for imaginative and captivating writing, however, the biographer ‘must not imagine the materials’ that he has sourced to write the biography. Careful selection of materials and fine crafting of words enables the ‘essence of [the subject’s] life’ (Edel in Pachter 1979, p.4) to appear. Pachter (1979 p.4) also states ‘through [the biographer] we encounter another human being, we feel the presence of a recognisable, approachable life’. One may believe that readers of a biography should be able to not only find out about facts of the subject’s life, but identify and understand the subject.

Kurt Cobain, singer in rock group Nirvana – arguably one of the world’s most influential bands, rising from Seattle – shot himself dead in his greenhouse on 5 April 1994, at the age of 27. The autopsy revealed that heroin was present in his blood and he had shot himself with a shotgun in the roof of his mouth. The premise of Cobain’s suicide is uncertain, but his life history reveals he was a troubled man with drug addictions and felt the need to retreat from fame and society. Because Cobain was notorious for his suicide and drug use, media reports focus on these aspects, portraying them as the most famous aspects of the musician.

Charles R Cross, an American music journalist, was the editor of a Seattle based music magazine, The Rocket from 1986 to 2000, and has written journalistic pieces for many magazines and newspapers worldwide, including Rolling Stone, Esquire, Spin Q, Mojo, Uncut, NME, The Los Angeles Times, The London Times and the Seattle Times. Cross was familiar with the Seattle music scene, and his writing was also well known its members. Cross was a fan of Nirvana. In an email from Cross (4 August 2005, Appendix 2A), Cross stated ‘Yeah I spoke to [Cobain] but I never considered him as a close friend. I knew the other guys in the band better’

Backscheider (1999 p.33) discusses the idea that ‘biographers have an “affinity” for their subjects, may have long “identified” to some extent with them, and “like” them’. With respect to Cross, he did have an affinity for Kurt Cobain. He did know a lot about the Seattle music scene prior to writing, and also had previously researched and interviewed Nirvana. Cross also stated that there was a sense of trust between him and sources (such as Cobain’s immediate family members) developed because of his familiarity with Nirvana and the Seattle music scene, and previous journalism pieces, and he believed this allowed greater access to information, representing Cobain more wholly.

However, Cross’s affinity for Cobain may also cause a problem of bias within the book. Indeed he portrays Cobain truthfully, and provides a better insight to his drug addiction and illnesses, however, his representation of Cobain could arguably gather much sympathy for him from readers. Cross told me in a personal email (28 July 2005, Appendix 1A) ‘There is always a personal bias but I strive to strip that from my work and bring the reader into the setting. It was both hard and easier because I was a fan; hard when I saw Kurt do something that was self destruction (sic) and easy because I know a lot about the band going in’. This knowledge of the band and Cobain may suggest Cross writes from a sympathetic viewpoint.

The purpose of Cross’s biography was to provide dimension to Kurt’s personality and to tell the story of the Seattle music scene. In an interview with Darren McPeake in 2002, Cross discusses the importance of Cobain, and the need to write such a detailed, multi sourced biography. Cross (2002) states ‘if [Cobain] got a serious biography…people may understand him better... I felt he deserves a serious biography and it was the things that were written about him after his death that really moved me to jump into the book’. Indeed this statement suggests that Cross intended to investigate Cobain’s spirit, and to provide more than what the media had done previously. He believed that Cobain was worthy of a biography.i
Heavier than Heaven’ (Cross 2001) detailed Kurt Cobain’s life in chronological order.ii Cross wrote this biography based on four years of research and 400 interviews. Although this is not an authorised biography, Cross had participation from Cobain’s family and many other sources, and access to a vast range of personal information, which suggests a sense of authorisation. Cross told me about his research process: ‘All 400 [interviews] were ones I did and obviously I also used other existing interviews. I approached people in a variety of ways, I wrote them, I e mailed them, I phoned, I used whatever method I had at my disposal…Some interviews were five hours, some were five minutes. Some I interviewed 12 times, some just once’. (Appendix 1A)

The level of intricate detail in the book is remarkable. Cross’s writing style makes the story of Cobain’s life authentic, and readers may get the impression that Cross was a fly on the wall actually observing Cobain’s actions. However, the span of research from interviews, and previous media, and the delving into Cobain’s mind via his journals and letters allow for this level of detail to be made possible, and for Cobain’s spirit to appear in the book. Interestingly, no one was present when Cobain committed suicide, yet Cross (2001, pp. 337- 342) recreates a meticulous picture of the scene. Cross writes of the CD that Cobain chose for the event, the beverages and cigarettes he consumed, the way he folded the case of the gun, the method by which he constructed the suicide note…even what he could have been thinking or wanting: ‘the last thing that he wanted was the kind of fuck-up that could leave him a vegetable’ (201, p 340). This level of description and exploration into the mind (of someone we can no longer seek information from) raises a question of the level of imagination that Cross used when recreating Cobain’s death scene. How could he possibly describe the scene so well when he wasn’t there, there were no witnesses, and Cobain’s body was not discovered for three days? Cross states in an interview with Maintain Magazine (2002) ‘some fans want to argue “how do you know what happened on that day?’. The way I know is by how you piece together any crime scene and that’s by evidence. Kurt drank a Barq’s root beer because there was one next to him…similarly there is evidence for every action that he took that day, including putting a shotgun in his mouth ad pulling the trigger’. This piecing together of the evidence is another tool which Cross has used to investigate Cobain’s spirit, albeit a spirit that was breaking before suicide.

Cross’s narrative of Cobain’s suicide, and detail of his drug use and sexual encounters and other personal events lends question to the need to publish certain events, and the consequences this may have on Cobain’s immediate family. In an interview with Nirvana Fanclub in 2001, Cross speaks of his role of a biographer is not to be concerned with Cobain’s painful past and the impact it has on those who knew him, and that he ‘couldn’t write a serious biography if [his] only goal was to protect those left living’. However, Matthew Ricketson (2000 p.43) discusses the problems of ethics that a biographer encounters while writing about a living person in his exegesis for his Paul Jennings biography. Ricketson (2000, p.43) writes ‘The closer the biographer is to current events the more they resemble a journalist for whom writs, secrecy and invasion of privacy are serious issues’. In the case of Cobain, Cross has written about a famous figure, seven years after his death, and the nature of his life and death is sensitive for the young daughter that Cobain left behind. The level of information within Cross’s book could be construed as an invasion of privacy, and certainly an insight into a mind and life that Cobain may not have wanted everyone to know about. However, as previously stated, Cross believed he had to do justice to Cobain’s image, to provide truths that were not known to the public. Writing about Cobain’s drug addiction and suicide in such detail certainly helps represent the type of man Cobain was, but it also leaves readers feeling like they have witnessed something that they were not meant to see, that Cobain did not want the world to see.

Cross has included excerpts of Cobain’s journals and letters in the biography. This is one element that differentiates Cross’s biography from previous biographies and media reports. Cross had unprecedented access to Cobain’s journals – he had no restrictions in accessing the journals, and what he included from the journals in the biography was his choice. Courtney Love, Cobain’s wife, told Cross about the journals and emphasised that they were essential to be able to understand Cobain (interview with Nirvana Fanclub 2001).

The journals not only support facts and claims made in the biography, they also provide a representation of Cobain’s personality, and show sides to him that previous media has not revealed. For example, Cross (2001 pp.111-12) has included a journal entry of Cobain’s – one of the many ‘band biographies’ that Cobain often wrote to send (but often didn’t send) to record companies with demo tapesiii.

Within the context of the biography, Cobain’s journal entries provides an insight into the workings of his mind – though perhaps not an accurate insight considering his tendencies to exaggerate, and the amount of drugs he used! – and support Cross’s view of Cobain. It almost presents ‘the whole man’, an idea discussed by Kearns in Edel (1973 p.91). Kearns (1973, p. 91) discusses that it is the ‘biographer’s dream’ to find the whole man, and on may believe that Cross’s access to Cobain’s journals was a crucial event in his search for ‘the whole man’. It presents angles that would not otherwise be examined, and personal view from the subject himself.

Readers feel like Cobain is a part of the book, almost as if he’s personally contributing to the book. In an interview with Nirvana Fanclub in 2002, Cross states ‘There are many things in Kurt’s journals that have also helped me piece together the time line of his life. And finding some of the letters he had mailed his friends were essential to letting his voice be heard in the book’.

However, the journals on their own, as culminated in ‘Kurt Cobain Journals’ in 2002 are out of context, and the publication does not give a sense of chronology ad entries are not dated. Another problem is that these are select journals therefore no background is offered to explain why something may have been written. As a part of the Journals collection, readers may get a warped idea of the man that was Cobain, as many were written under the influence of drugs, and as mentioned, he was a great exaggerator and contradictory. Journal entries ramble from one subject to another which makes it difficult to understand the purpose of Cobain’s writing. The collection features random lists of favourite songs and elements of Cobain’s personality, unsent letters, working drafts of songs and drawings (Appendices 3A – 3E). One may suggest that the inclusion of journals in Cross’s book is more beneficial than the journals as a collection as Cross provides background and reason for the writings.

This biography of Kurt Cobain by Charles R Cross does not present an analysis or hypothesis about why Cobain committed suicide. However, the level of detail allows the reader to become more informed about Cobain’s life, and certainly provides depth into the type of character he was. The tools of research Cross has used enable a thorough investigation of Cobain’s spirit, particularly the level of unrestricted access he had to Cobain’s journals. Cross has discussed in an interview (2002) that the people he spoke to spoke ‘openly and freely’ about Cobain, and this indicates even the people closest to him saw the need to represent his spirit in the truest way possible.


ABC News online 2004, ‘Fans are paying tribute to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’, 5 April 2004, www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1080942.htm, accessed 8 August 2005.

ABC Radio 2005, ‘Literary Journalism’ program transcript, ABC online 23 June 2005, www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/8.30/mediarpt/stories/s1394635.htm, accessed 8 August 2005.

Auden, WH in Jeffrey Meyers ed. 1985, ‘The Craft of Literary Biography’, MacMillan, London, UK. (as quoted on p.2 of Ricketson, M 2000 ‘Reporting it all: The Nature and role of the reporting process in a piece of book-length journalism (Exegesis on writing a journalistic biography)’, RMIT University, Australia, 2000.)

Backscheider, PR 1999, ‘Reflections on Biography’ Oxford University Press, UK.
Batchelor, J (ed) 1995, ‘The Art of Literary Biography’ Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK, 1995.

Carioli, C 2001, ‘Contradictory Cobain- Charles R Cross’s life of Kurt’, Boston Phoenix, 25 October – 1 November 2001, www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/mic/other_stories/documents/01975957.htm, accessed 8 August 2005.

Cobain, CD, (circa late 1980s – mid 1990s) 2002, ‘Kurt Cobain Journals’, The Estate of Kurt Cobain, Penguin Group, UK.

Cross CR 2005, ‘About the Author’, Charles R Cross website, www.charlesrcross.com, accessed 25 July 2005.

Cross, CR 2001, ‘Heavier than Heaven – The Biography of Kurt Cobain’, Hodder & Stoughton, UK.

Crotty 2002, ‘Nevermind the Myth, Here’s Kurt Cobain’, Exquisite Corpse, Cyber Issue 11, Spring/Summer 2002, www.corpse.org/issue_11/critiques/crotty.html, accessed 8 August 2005.

Edel, L 1973, ‘Literary Biography’, Indiana University Press, 2nd edn., USA.

Ling, J 2002, ‘The Cobain Journals Raise Controversy’, The Guardian Online, Wednesday 13 November 2002, www.theguardianonline.com/media/paper373/news/2002/11/13/Scene/TheCobain.Journals.Raise.Controversy-322330.shtml, accessed 8 August 2005.

Litchman, N 2002, ‘Eternal Darkness- A Voyage into the center of Kurt Cobain’s tragic life and battle for his legacy’, Maintain Magazine, September 2002, www.maintainmag.com/sept02/nirvana.html, accessed 27 July 2005.

McPeake, D 2001, ‘A Great American Story- Interview with Kurt Cobain biographer, Charles R Cross’, The Darren Show, www.thedarrenshow.com/articles_kurt.htm, accessed 27 July 2005.

Nirvana Fanclub 2001, Interview with Charles R Cross, Nirvana Fanclub website www.nirvanaclub.com/news/08_2001.htm, accessed 27 July 2005.
Osborne, BD 2004, ‘Writing Biography and Autobiography’, AC & Black Publishers LTD, London UK.

Pachter, M (ed.) 1979, ‘Telling Lives’ New Republic Books National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, USA.

Ricketson, M 2000 ‘Reporting it all: The Nature and role of the reporting process in a piece of book-length journalism (Exegesis on writing a journalistic biography)’, RMIT University, Australia, 2000.

Townshend, P 2002, ‘Why he died before he got old’, The Observer, Sunday 3 November 2002, www.observer.guardian.co.ukreview/story/0,6093,824698,00.html, accessed August 8 2005-08-12


i Backscheider (1999 p.37) discusses the need for a biographer to consider the significance and worthiness of the subject, their work and life, and whether the subject shaped the world in which we live (both at the time, and today). It can be concluded that Cross’s comments show that he believes Cobain was worthy of a biography and there was a need for his story to be told. On whether Cross believed there was an opportunity to write a biography on Cobain before he died and when Nirvana were in their prime, and if he could have written one if Cobain did not die, or did not die in the way that he did, Cross believes that he couldn’t have written a biography like this one. Cross told me ‘I was indeed offered jobs writing biographies of the band when Kurt was alive, and also immediately after his death – both of those seemed like bad timing. I certainly wouldn’t have of couldn’t have written the type of bio I did if he was alive’. This suggests that Cobain’s worthiness and impact on the world was at its peak post death, and Cross saw the significance of Cobain and appropriateness of writing a biography after he committed suicide.

ii It begins with Cobain’s first ‘death’ on 12 January 1992, where he’d injected a lethal amount of heroin into his arm, stopped breathing and his wife had to resuscitate him (Cross 2001 pp.1-4). This is perhaps to set the scene for Cobain’s troubled life and the extent of his drug use, and to show how he was feeling leading up to his suicide in 1994. It then outlines Cobain’s life from his birth, adolescence, the birth of Nirvana and making of their albums, relationships with women, the success of Nirvana, to his suicide.

iii Cobain (circa 1988) wrote

Nirvana is from Olympia, WA, 60 miles from Seattle. Nirvana’s guitar/vocalist Kurdt Cobain and bass Chris Novoselic lived in Aberdeen 150 miles from Seattle. Aberdeen’s population consists of highly redneck snooze-chewing deer-shooting faggot-killing logger types who “aint too proud of weirdo new wavers.” Chad Channing [drummer], is from an island of rich LSD abusers. Nirvana is a trio who play heavy rock with punk overtones. They usually don’t have jobs. So they can tour anytime. Nirvana has never jammed on “Gloria” or “Louie Louie”. Nor have they ever had to rewrite these songs and call them their own.’


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