Wow, tinytiger, thanks for the nice post! It is true: there is no need to wait for Avalon for animated vector graphics. The integrated VG.net designer does generate VB.net code in VB projects -- we just use the codedom serializer, exactly like windows forms. It is completely intuitive -- set properties, attach events, to any graphical object, using the property grid.

On this blog you can see how to create transparent gel buttons with VG.net:
http://weblogs.asp.net/frank_hileman

The run-time is free, and there is a free designer version -- give it whirl.