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Is the Cup Half-Full or Half-Empty?

Is the Cup Half-Full or Half-Empty?

Yup. I know what you’re thinking: this blog is all about whether an “empty” cup (I don’t use glasses… that’s another blog for another day) isn’t really just chock-full of elements like nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon in their gaseous state… and who are we to be sniffy about privileging matter in its liquid form? It’s ok. I went there too. No, today’s blog is about one of my pet peeves: tv shows, commercials, and films wherein the character is holding an empty cup and pretending to drink from it.

Actually, I have a few cupular pet peeves. I think I’ll make this a series.

First, I tried to find all those commercials and film snippets which have made me bananas, over the last few decades. People holding empty cups (and similarly irritating: people holding empty paper grocery bags) but random Google searches proved useless except for this mostly unrelated gem courtesy of Cracked.com’s YouTube channel which, thankfully, does have a dude holding an empty cup, but it’s not quite what I needed for my blog.

Please enjoy this video. I had to endure a commercial for The Big Bang Theory before I could watch this.

Roger Horton. Yeah, I’d vote for you.

Then I happened upon Mental Floss which led me to Slate and (bless his buns) Myles McNutt. He beat me to it and frankly, I’m not this good.

Proof once again I live in a world inhabited only by cats, I discover the #EmptyCupAwards started, oh, two years ago…

Since McNutt had it worked out for me, I decided to share this with you all, then change the focus of today’s blog to what you all originally thought I was going to write on:

Empty vs. Full

Somewhere, always lurking, is a smart-ass who will answer the half-empty, half-full question with “there’s air in there!” thus silencing the rhetorical questioner. Usually also quashing all good chatter leaving nothing (or would that be something) but an awkward pause. Don’t worry: I’ve been that pedantic self-righteous 11 year-old. Perhaps you’ve been one, too (one, two, get it?).

Pretty sure the bowl is "empty" but not my Hello Kitty mug. It probably has green tea in it, or 抹茶 for you purists.
Pretty sure the bowl is “empty” but not my Hello Kitty mug. It probably has green tea in it, or 抹茶 for you purists.

Is the Cup Half-Full or Half-Empty?

The question is so much more than a discourse on the elements; we all know that. It’s about whether your response is optimistic (half-full) or pessimistic (half-empty). Frankly, I’ve found this discourse just a little too “binary” (yeah, I said it) and reductionist (which my spell check tells me is NOT a word but hey, neologism IS a word so nyah). Reductionist. I said it.

It’s a blog about what is and isn’t “there” and whether or not a cup of anything is always a good thing. My first thoughts:

  • The cup is never empty. Anyone who stayed awake in Grade 9 science will tell you that, if they dare.
  • Sometimes there’s poison in that cup. Good thing it’s half-empty. But dang, who drank it and will I have to hide the body? Who poisoned the cup? Why? Am I next? Thankfully, I am friends with a lot of mystery authors and likely, they can help me on this one.
  • The ambrosia distilled from kitten sneezes and happy puppy toots may be in your cup, in which case half-full is still pretty ok. Who drank it shouldn’t be my response. Thank you for saving me some is what I should say. Let’s have a little gratitude, people.
  • The cup is half-full or half-empty depending on your need. If you are drinking Buckley’s Mixture and are halfway done…. well, if you’ve had Buckley’s, you know. You need that cup to be empty. Emptied.  Maybe one should move to the more verbally enhanced question: is the cup half-filled or half-emptied?
  • Sometimes it’s just so awesome to have a cup. There’s a semiotics in this observation: some people don’t have cups and likely don’t have decent water to drink. But here in the First World…need a cup? Here’s how you fold one, if you’re in a tight spot. This comes in handy if you’re in IKEA, a land forgotten by drinking fountains. Take a fresh page from an ubiquitous catalogue festooning that temple to compartmentalization and fold your little heart out. One use only though, people.
  • And now that you’ve read the point above, you may be feeling a bit crappy about the fact that I mentioned that some people don’t have access to potable water. Do something about it, even if you just share some page from Watsi.org or Unicef. Maybe the other person will donate, thanks to your clicking “share” or “like” or one of those little hearts.

What started this blog today: my hatred for seeing people “drink” from “empty” cups. What it’s really all about? The fact that my little bubble gets burst when I notice the artifice of it all. In film, this is when the suture is ruptured. I love suture. I like my #safespace (or is it #safeplace or #happyspace? #happyplace?).  (My kid just told me it’s #safespace and #happyplace.)

This particular suture rupture irks me, metaphorically, because what I ultimately see is the mirroring of real-life people in my day-to-day (well, on Facebook at least) drinking from full cups and they’re not aware of it. When I see fake people fake drink from fake cups my mind goes to all the real people out there “drinking” from very full cups and some (not all) are no more “aware” (certainly not really #grateful or #blessed) than those actors on those shows, commercials, and films.  

But I know what you’re really wondering, through all this?

Why don’t I drink from glasses?

What’s the metaphor there? Glass houses? Mirror Stage? Simulacra? Nah, it’s much more easy peasy: I knock them over and break them. That’s kinda it, really. I’m a klutz. Freud sums this up nicely:

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

And sometimes the cup is neither full nor empty, and it may not even be there. But if you have a cup, you’re doing pretty good. If it has something palatable in it, so much the better. If you can fill someone else’s — figuratively or literally — then you are truly having a great day. Go fill someone’s cup today and please, for me, make sure you slosh it around a bit. Leave a mark. Share the love.


I’m canvassing for the Heart & Stroke Foundation again this year and yes, I’m starting well before Heart Month (which is February)… Even $5 would be nice. Please give. Super thanks!


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