Pretty bizarre here. Let me explain how I got to this point -
Tonight I installed the game "Supreme Commander" and found I had no sound within the game. To attempt to fix this, I have installed the DirectX EU SDK from 6/2007, Also re-ran DirectX 10, and rebooted several times.
UAC was off, and when I went to turn it back on I found this (note UAC is on now):
I took a screenshot next to a control panel window that is working fine.
Near as I can tell, every other Control Panel window works fine.
I was trying to avoid having to repair/re-install vista, but now explorer.exe has been doing strange stuff too, like not displaying the contents of the folder so I might be heading towards that.
If anyone has any ideas, I'm open to them. The only ref I could find online (via google) was for a gentlemen who had a similar problem in WInXp - and he ended up formatting.