edit: although this was posted ages ago, i just realized i hadn't updated it.
the problem is moot as i've since re-installed the machine, but i never did figure out what the problem was exactly.
thanks for the suggestion. it has something to do with the kernel and libraries -- if i boot in a generic kernel the issue doesn't occur.
also i've learned that it isn't that emacs is hanging, but rather that it takes a long time for the initial start. if i do the sequence above, and let the invokation command sit, after about 4-5 minutes it will start. after that it starts up without a delay. i think this might have to do with initial linux startup/configuration still taking place, for instance the sound also is delayed ( ie: the login chimes in KDE don't kick off as quickly as they do in subsequent login's ).
anyway, the obvious workaround is simply to let the machine boot, login, and then not expect to work for a few minutes. frankly, that's rather Window's esque and not something i am used to in the *nix world.
Last edited by brokencog; 12-18-2008 at 08:48 PM.
Reason: update status.