This came in and was really helpful, so I'm putting it up in full.
Poor Neil! The whole concept of maid cafes is indeed pretty strange, but I guess somewhat understandable if you know some things about Japanese pop culture. Maid cafes are a type of cosplay (costume play) restaurant -- basically it's not too different really from going to Medieval Times or something like that in the US. (There are also Butler cafes, by the way.) The thing that probably makes it weird is that Maid cafes (and presumably Butler cafes too) are all about moe (mo-eh)! Which basically means that yes, it's about a fetish. I think what is weird to most Westerners is that Japanese fetishes aren't necessarily things most people not Japanese are going to find particularly sexy.
I think the person who wrote in about pedophilia yesterday is probably slightly misunderstanding the term "Gothic Lolita" and is applying it to the concept of moe/maid cafes. Gothic Lolita is a style of fashion/lifestyle in Japan ... and it doesn't actually have anything to do with the book Lolita or little girls. The term originated with a clothing line called "Young Gothic Lolita" (the men's line was called "Young Gothic Aristrocrat") that began being sold in the 90s. Most people into Gothic Lolita fashion had no clue that a book existed until it was published about in a magazine targeted towards the movement. I would say the attraction of the fashion for women is just a desire to emulate Victoriana, and for men it's a sort of strange sexual attraction to the primness associated with Victorian costumes. I mean, Gothic Lolitas do not typically bare a lot of flesh. Neither do the maids in maid cafes.
However, I would say that there is a sort of mainstream acceptance of vaguely pedophilic attitudes in Japan (mostly contained to fiction -- quite a few popular manga/anime series include overtones of it, including "Loveless", "Negima!", and "Enzai" -- all released in the US). I just wouldn't say the maid cafes are necessarily an example of that.
Sorry for going on so long,
and I just got this --
I'm the video guy at MSN UK and we've just been given the exclusive Beowulf trailer that was featured on Film 2007 last night.
If you think your readers would be interested in watching it, they should follow this link: http://video.uk.msn.com/v/en-gb/v.htm and click the massive Beowulf banner at the top of the page.
(I'm not so much acting as MSN corporate pimp here as much as I'm pimping that massive Beowulf banner. I'm also one of the photoshop guys here and I'm pretty pleased with that one.)
and was surprised to see that the trailer was one that I'd not seen at all. It's fascinating where Beowulf is concerned (for me, anyway) seeing new bits of footage as the computer emits them. Can't wait to see the film in its entirety and find out what it is.