So of course we traveled the spitting distance from Happytown™ headquarters to hit up Monday, Oct. 20's Hopeypalooza '08 outside the Amway Arena, and of course it was amazing in that "we can't wait to tell our grandkids, except we'll never have grandkids" kind of way. Presidents Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were in fine form, rattling off candy-coated bits of rhetoric effortlessly while standing next to each other in pure Dream Ticket formation.

There was something involving a coconut cream pie, a little splash of Hillary "I just met this lady, see" populism, a Florida-centric "sunshine in Washington" quip, the obligatory "okey-dokey" Sarah Palin reference, lots of white rock of the khaki-shorts variety (Counting Crows, ladies), a giant line of 50 million people (approximate) that we didn't have to wait in (ha! we're special), some Uncle Colin Powell stuff and some extra-hot Secret Service boys to stare at. In short, it was a hugely populated Democratic rally — one that if you follow the news at all, you probably already know too much about.

But did you hear Sen. Bill Nelson call Clinton "pugnacious"? Did you notice that some ingenious staffer decided to hang the American flag right over the word "Amway" on the arena? Did you have any clue why state Rep. Darren Soto was invited to speak? Did you hear that Mayor Buddy Dyer was quite possibly angry about not being asked to speak? Did you try the lemonade? We did (except the lemonade part), and let us tell you that Hope is alive. And we have a Hope hangover.

Dear state Rep. Scott Randolph: If only we could come up with the right words to express exactly what it is we are feeling for you right now. Surely they would involve a chariot, a flower, a moon and a unicorn, all cascading down in glorious sparkles of forevermore. Oh, and there would be some chocolate, too, probably dripped on warmed cherries.

This week's revelation that you've been honored for the second year in a row by the Florida League of Cities with a Legislative Appreciation Award — and are one of only seven reps to receive that designation — warms our heart in places we never even knew we had before, because we've always believed in you … and us. When that bitch the Sentinel turned against you in 2007 and ranked you the least effective in the state House ("The Legislature's class clown," they scoffed), we shed a tear. When this year they only bumped you up two places ("A capital ‘D' Democrat," they tooled), we clenched our jaw. But you kept your cool and played it off.

"I always consider myself more of the work horse than the show horse," you told us. Not so. You are our little show pony, Scott, and we want to ride you off into a starshower of twinkling hope. You pointed out the obvious, that the stunts the Sentinel so lamented — attempting to measure sales tax rebates for sports teams based upon their scoring performance — were tongue-in-cheek. Those other guys don't get you. But we do.

Oh, Scott. We are so in love with you we can't feel our toes. We need you. Hold us.

And now it's time for another (and perhaps the final) installment of What's Up With Ric?™, our attempt to keep you up to date on the comings and goings of Orlando's favorite congressman, U.S. Rep. Ric Keller!

This week's episode finds the previously portly representative in an uphill battle to keep his job, but getting some serious lovin' from the man-glossy Esquire, which not only endorsed Ricky-boy, but labeled him an "A-plus" — an honor not bestowed upon any other congressional candidate, even though the mag endorsed someone in every single race in the country. Wow.

How did Ric get to be so great? He likes Pell Grants and cops, that's how! And that's enough to get the Esquire editors onboard. Apparently, that's also where the mag's crack research team decided to load up their bongs and call it a day — those of us who've dealt with Keller these last eight years have a slightly different impression of his, um, awesomeness. In fact, the polling we've seen suggests that Keller's about to get spanked by Democrat Alan Grayson come Election Day.

But we'll talk about that more in next week's Happytown™ extra-special endorsement edition. In the meantime, we'll say thanks, Ric, for nailing down that elusive Esquire vote!

You know what's better than being alive? Death.

It's the hot new fad, according to the stuffy old guys at the Funeral Directors Association, who have all sorts of new doodads for the dearly departed. We got a firsthand look last week during the association's powwow at the Orange County Convention Center. Here's what we unearthed (heh):

l For the hippies, the Natural Burial Company offers "biodegradable coffins or shrouds made of renewable and non-toxic materials like willow, cane or paper." Save the earth, even when you're no longer a part of it!

l For the biggest nerds on this or any planet: Wanna take all your Star Trek memorabilia with you, but can't seem to find a big enough casket for all of your phasers? No problem. A company called Eternal Image will immortalize your remains in a "next generation" coffin. Or you could be like James Doohan — "Scotty" — and get your ashes shot into space. Memorial Spaceflights will help you out.

l For you exhibitionists — deathibitionists? offers live Internet broadcasting of your funeral. It's invitation-only, and your voyeurs have to have high-speed capacity, otherwise they'll be staring at an unmoving corpse … oh, right.

l Our favorite: Eternal Space. It's like MySpace for dead people. You can customize your virtual headstone and pick your virtual burial backdrop. Your cheaper relatives can drag and drop virtual flowers for the price of gum. It's the virtual wave of the future. Unfortunately, you're not virtually dead.

l A convention highlight: "Official Irish Dirt" to sprinkle over your shamrocked carcass, to remember the Auld Country, potatoes, whiskey, whatever. Better hurry: The package we got has a "best before" date of Aug. 9, 2162.

We're not entirely sure what happens to the dirt after that.

Party with us!

Last week, we told you that we're going to throw a big Election Night party with booze and games and maybe even an election the American people won't screw up. Now we've got details: Orlando Weekly's Cry in Our Beer '08 Party will start at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, at the Clubhouse (100 E. Pine St.), a sports bar that will be transformed into our very own star-spangled watering hole.

It's free, and you'll get happy-hour prices all night long, cheap beer, a buffet until 7 p.m. and, of course, our company. The party goes until we all pass out from the copious amounts of either happy champagne or dour whiskey (depending on the results) that we'll be pounding. Or 2 a.m., whichever comes first.

See ya there!

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