sigh. did the delete/reinstall and it worked. was a traumatic experience for me though, cos i deleted wp-content out of sheer noobness, and then o my sheer horror i found that the wordpress-upgrade-plugin-supplied backup folders dont backup wp-content for some weird reason. some files lost but wth.
i know how n00b i sound, but seriously before this i did not have to mess around with wp-admin and wp-includes
wp 2.8 is an improvement over 2.7, but damn the upgrade procedure was a serious, serious setback over previous ones.