So by now everyone should have seen the SquirrelFish announcement. And MagLev. And you've see Steve Yegge's presentation, "Dynamic Languages Strike Back". And you've been following the discussion about the relative merits of stack versus register based VMs.
All of those things on their own are interesting, but what's more important is that we're talking about them all at the same time. There's real research going on to produce faster VMs and that research is being applied to real scripting languages today. What we are priveleged to witness, something that wasn't happening a year ago, and will probably be complete in another year or two, is the professionalization of scripting languages. There was a time when you could whip out a parser in lex and yacc, stitch together a naive VM and throw it over the wall and you'd have a new scripting language. Those days are coming to a close and in a few years (if not months) you won't be able get traction with anything unless it does direct threading, is register based, has generational GC, does peephole optimizations, does trace-folding, does type-inferenced inline caching, etc. That's not a bad thing, real work being applied to improving the performance of scripting languages is great and should greatly increase the areas where they'll be applied as long standing concerns about performance are removed and the benefits of increased productivity come to the fore.
If you haven't been keeping up on all of this then start with the three papers that the SquirrelFish announcement references. They're clear, well written, and are a good starting place before diving into the rest of the literature.
And yes, it's all true, once you trace all of this stuff back it all eventually leads to Smalltalk. Poor old disrespected Smalltalk, all those years of work, all that cutting edge research, and nary a bit of credit, which is particularly galling if you think about the fact that, to date, the language that has benefitted the most from Smalltalk is Java.