To Friends of Soren (by Dave Gordon)

Reprinted via Dave Gordon from FB. friend, copywriter, man of wisdom.

To Friends of Soren
(This was the speech I gave at Soren Hellner’s memorial. I hope it brings you some comfort in this sad time.)


I hate spicy food. And whenever Soren and I would go to get Mexican food or Indian food or really any type of food (it could have been McDonalds) he would he ask for it to be spicy.

Say we were at a Thai restaurant, the waiter would laugh when Soren asked for it to be really spicy. Soren would convince the waiter that he used to live in Thailand and that he could handle it.

When it finally came, the smell of it would make my eyes water, but Soren would dive into it.

Then he would try and convince me to have some “Try it, it’s good for you.” He’d say with a mischievous smile.

It’s good for me? How exactly would searing my stomach lining be good for me? Maybe you’re suggesting that these toxins that you drench your noodles in will somehow condition my body better to fight off infections?

But, looking back, I don’t think that’s what he meant. I really think he was teaching me about trying something new and different and to welcome the unknown.

This is how Soren lived his life and it is one of the many lessons he taught me over the two years I was blessed to call him a friend. But it wasn’t the most important. You’ll have to wait for that.

Another lesson he taught me was to be passionate about the things he loved. Among other things, he was so very passionate about FCKopenhagen, his football team (soccer to us silly Americans). He even would carry around 2 computers on the days when they had games just so he could watch it while working. And when they won, he would smile for hours, so happy for his beloved FCK.

But, conversely, he also taught me how to take life a little less seriously. When I was stressed out, trying to get everything finished for class, he would calmly laugh and say “One game”. That, of course meant foosball. And yes, I’ll admit it, he was better than me. And every game he won, he’d smile and say “Good game, Gordo”.

He also taught me a lot about Denmark. I always thought the Vikings were from Norway. “Nope” he’d smile about his proud heritage. The Vikings ruled most of Europe at one time… but then they gave it away for some vodka or something he’d joke. So maybe that’s where he got it?

And clearly, he taught me how to dress. Some people may not realize this, but whenever the opportunity arose, whether it was someone’s birthday, a going away party, someone’s graduation, it didn’t even have to be his, he’d wear a suit. He’d walk through the crowd at the party, smiling and saying he just felt like wearing the suit.

Strangely enough, Soren also taught me how to dance. Stick one hand up in the air and put on the biggest smile you could. I think it was because he didn’t like dancing. Because whenever he got uncomfortable, he would smile and laugh. This is something I’ll always remember, instead of running away from something that bothered him; he would welcome it with that trademark and unmatched smile.

That, I think was the very most important lesson Soren taught me. To always smile. Whether you are in a new environment or new situation, smile. If you’re meeting someone new or you’re nervous about a presentation, smile. Even if you’re scared or sometimes a bit sad, smile even wider. Because that’s really what Soren was all about and why I’ll miss him so much – his everlasting optimism and his great smiling heart.

So while we are here today, mourning and missing such a beautiful person and my best friend, we should try and smile. It’s what Soren would want. And it’s good for you.



A few posters I made last quarter, for Journey of Type with Matt McFadden. 17 writers, 9 posters every week, one font, one cool class.


David Carson, start running.

Picture 4


Amnesty Int’l – Control Arms campaign.  Joy Divisionesque?

Picture 2


This one might be my favorite…

Picture 3

Depressions from the Sea

On Tuesday, Ed McMahon went off in search of the stars
Farah Fawcett waved a red kiss goodbye
And the King of Pop popped some pills for his one big last Thrill
And yet none of these struck me with any significance
Until currents of water pulled my friend under
When that light washed out, and fairness was torn asunder.

Soren. My friend.  Some things I won’t forget:
Your love of techno, Belgian beer, and tight pants.
How you turned your head sideways for every Facebook photo.
How you smiled at those you knew – and at those you didn’t.

I remember a long day in December.
It was raining outside so I decided to bother you.
“Do Danish people eat Danishes? Isn’t that like cannibalism?”
I thought I was being clever.
You took it seriously.
I never thought I’d spent an entire afternoon discussing pastries.

Soren I can see you now
Walking slowly, lighting up the streets in Paris
Or standing tall across the ocean
Teaching the penguins how to fly
In a world full by brands, yours was the best.
I’d buy a million of you if you came in smaller packages.

When all seems fleeting
We suffer and wonder how.
How we can sustain ourselves through the morning.
But somehow, from somewhere, we gain the strength to move forward.
To move beyond moments like this one.
Where each breath comes easier than the one before,
where laughter fills the space where before there was only black.
What’s strange and painful,
bittersweet and lovely
is that this will happen to us
without us noticing at all.

Picture 5

Soren Hellner (1979-2009)

Before I Cut the Cake

I turned 26 years old last week. Go me!

I don’t get the idea of birthdays. You’ve made it! Great job! One year closer to death! But I do appreciate the alcoholic traditions associated with the holiday. Because isn’t that what birthdays are? Holidays? Except this time, we’re celebrating you.

Here in SF, friends gathered together for parties and pints. I was there, too.
In LA, the family I currently speak to raised hell over kebabs and Persian rice. Edahn and Varda presented me with a 21.5-inch monitor after I cut the cake.
It is huge. And yes, that is what she said.

Spirits soared the day previous, when after my daily dose of chi kong, I discovered an email from the internship coordinator. I clicked on the email.
The message opened. I began reading.

Congratulations. You will be attending the Crispin Porter and Bogusky Greenhouse in Boulder, Colorado for your summer quarter away. First day of class is Monday, July 6th and ends on Friday, Sept 11th. Please bring oatmeal cookies and Belgian beer for the entire creative department.

CP+B is the mother agency of the school. We are its suckling babies, mouth closed tight on its creative nipple. They keep their people busy busy busy, and I don’t plan on sleeping much during my Ad-venture. Ha. I love puns. Suck it.

In short, next week the Bay Area will release me from its grip for six months.
I hope to return stronger, wiser, and able to survive on four hours of sleep a night. Boulder first, then who knows? Paris, Tel-Aviv, Sydney? Choices, choices…So many choices! Well, as the old saying goes: Never complain if you’ve got too much peanut butter on your hands.

Caffeine, you kill me.

Congratulations to my friend Jacob Shwirtz for getting engaged to Nicole, a girl I never met but I’m sure is dandy like candy! Lots of mazal. I hope you buy a new, bigger Television! And big ups on launching his company’s website: DEFINITELY SOMETHING

I went hiking last Sunday with Ryan C. and Kevin Freeman. We left with high spirits and plenty of sun in our eyes, and returned with new covalent bonds and POISON IVY on my right leg. Hydrocortisone is working it’s magic, and it’s looking a lot better now that the pus has stopped oozing out.

I highly recommend Satin Floss for all your flossing needs.

My portfolio for school is online. Have you seen the other website? Bookmark that shit like, hella quick / cause I’m updating that shit / and I spare no wit.

It’s becoming more and more likely that I’m leaving this city in the next two months, and samsoniting it away to another city for school. Miami ad school has a quarter away program, and I’m shooting for the Congo.

But the best news? A few weeks ago I wrote and produced a :50 radio spot for Chipotle burritos. A letter arrived today, courtesy of the mail service person, containing not one, not two, but FOUR GIFT CERTIFICATES to Chipotle! 12 hours of work, and I’m eating again.

I’m quitting coffee. The poisons on my leg, the scratching, the suffering – were pacified by a Double D Dose of OTC Benadryl. I didn’t feel that groggy waking up, but counteracted any hesitation with a medium Peet’s coffee. There I was, sitting on the brown leather couch, when my hands were convulsing. I started focusing on them, then letting go, watching them quiver like a 5 year old who needs to make pee pee at Disneyland. I took an Advil and somehow that made everything worse – judging by my partner’s reactions, I needed to get out: so I booked it outside and ran to a supermarket. I called Varda Small, licensed mother and psychoanalyst, thinking it would help. It did. Sort of. What actually did help? Pretending I was living in slow motion. SLOW. DOWN. Caffeine, you kill me. And now, I’ve decided, to cut down down down on the coffee coffee coffee. Who needs it?

Stop. Collaborate and listen. 12 things picked up in Miami Ad School.

indifferent1Portfolio school is a revolving door of people and personalities. Every class becomes its own family, full of laughter and smiles and enough drama to put my Iraqi aunts to shame. I met some folks from the first quarter in one of the classrooms, bombarded with questions. It was kind of surreal, and I remember doing the exact same thing when I started at MAS. I don’t remember the conversation verbatim (it’s been a long week and not over yet), but here are some things I’ve come to learn while studying at Miami Ad School in San Francisco. They’re fairly copywriter specific.

1. Learn the design programs. Your art director will appreciate it when you handle execution of a bullshit project, and come through when their expertise is most needed for the serious ones. ADs can sometimes let loose with art direction, and you need to be able to communicate why the second word in your headline is too slanted and illegible.

2. Write a ton of lines. Don’t write lines you think your teacher will like. Write lines you like, that are meaningful to you. And save everything. Microsoft Word doesn’t care about that extra bullet point item. I can’t tell you how many times my teacher saw treasure where I only saw trash.

3. WRITE IT DOWN. Carry a small book and mini Pilot pen with you everywhere. My neighbor Zeev told me a rule: 3 breaths, and it will pass. If a thought pops into your head, and you take three breaths without putting it to paper, it disappears.

4. Pay attention to what people say. Last quarter, I focused on design. Now I listen and observe, observe, observe.

5. Don’t suck up to teachers. Some of them are as old as you are. You can be normal.  Talk about stuff unrelated to advertising, share links, show them shit you’re working on outside of class. They have interests too.

6. If you show a line or idea to someone and they say it doesn’t make sense, trust them: IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE. Fix it, burn it, get over it.

7. Make friends with art directors, and give them changes in bundles instead of bits.

8. Speaking up helps. If a teacher asks for ideas, bring them to the table. But strive to shut up a lot more often than open your mouth. The popular kids at school are usually the nicest and friendliest, not the ones who need to prove themselves, their artistic talent, or comedic abilities during class. It’s annoying, we’re all artists here, and your parents are the only ones who think you’re funny.

9. Stay in your own world, while looking at what other teams are doing. It’s easy to be impressed, then jealous of how extensive and amazing your friends’ projects are. Be happy for them, and make your shit better. You’ll spend more time gawking at what they’re putting together than getting anything done.

10. Don’t talk shit about people. Everyone develops a reputation at ad school. The smiling nice guy. The IT person. The networker. The kick ass illustrator. It works both ways. The creep. The annoying one. The flake. The drama queen. The shit talkers and the gossipers. It’s unfortunate, but once you develop that brand, that shit sticks and that’s how people remember you. How do you want to be remembered?

11. Unless you’ve gone through a writing or design program, you will suck in the beginning.  Ad school is this introspective process, where you come in full of passion and life and unbridled enthusiasm. It’s so cute…But your work is a lot of crap. Most of it comes from regurgitated commercials and snazzy headlines you hate. The GOOD news is that you get better. You filter out more and more of the crap, realize that YOU DO have innate TALENT, and more importantly, start treating yourself, your reader and your teacher with respect. People avoid advertising. You are a person. Go from there. It gets easier, and you get better.

12. Read. Read fiction, books, nonfiction, magazines, blogs you like.  Read an assload. It makes you a better writer and is better than reading: Settlers nearly made all the buffalo extinct. Here’s how. (Product shot of a gun) Hey. That’s actually not such a bad line. I bet it will be in when I look at it 6 hours from now.

Writers I like to follow, and suggest the RSS: (There are others out there…But it’s fucking late and if I don’t stop this, this will become the longest post on this blog)

Andy Pearson (headline a day page)

Journal of a Junior Copywriter

Makin’ Ads

Nightmare on 8111 Batha Street

My stomach was all torn up this morning.

I had this time portal dream where Gil and I are 7 and 9, respectively. (I’m 2 years older)  For reasons unexplained, we’re being held prisoner by this pudgy WASP type in this modernized house in Reseda. The address is 8111 Batha Street, and there are spruce and cherry trees out front, a toy plastic bicycle on the lawn, and fallen acorns on the driveway.

It’s gray outside, like San Francisco gray, where no one wants to get out of the house but smoke and cook vegan pasta and read books in living rooms. Anyways, I’m freaking the fuck out, being older than Gil, who is exploiting his youth and naivete to his advantage. The thought of being kidnapped by a strange, manic, but sweet guy hasn’t fully entered his brain, but it’s all I can think about. My stomach is compressed, my lungs burn from restrained tears and my head is shaking in panic. He’s offering Gil cookies and milk – smiles sadistically and restrains me with his fat hand on my chest, pushing me back into the plush, beige couch if I try to move too quickly.

It’s night.

I have my Google phone on me, which is somehow impossible because it hasn’t even been invented yet. I write a message to my brother Edahn…I can see the words…

We’ve been kidnapped. This is not a joke. We’re on 8111 Batha Street. Send the cops. There’s a hallway to the left when you enter, and we’re in the first door on the left. I’ll be, I am waiting. This is not a joke. He has weapons. Bring SWAT.

Gil called me at 9.36. I tell him everything, my stomach still hurts. It was so real. It took hours to go through. He looks up the address. It EXISTS. But it’s in South Carolina.

You want to know the sick, twisted ending? As I’m walking to school  I started thinking how I could work this whole thing into an ad.