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Off-Kilter

June 11, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Graveyard for Die-Hard Sports Fans?: Today's award for most creative cemetery scheme goes to San Diego businessman Denis Braun, who wants to finance a new downtown Padres baseball park by making the outfield wall a columbarium for cremated ashes. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Braun says 70,000 urns could be housed inside the interlocking granite-faced bricks he would use to build the wall.

Fans could buy "20 years of season tickets in the grandstand and an eternity in the outfield," he said. Each space would cost $2,500. So far, Padres officials are skeptical, but we kind of like the idea, especially if it means stadium funeral services would be conducted by the San Diego Chicken. As one observer told the North County Times, it would "give new meaning to the phrase 'dead center.' "

Doubting Thomases Department: Our recent item about an Arizona State University theater professor who was reportedly fired for teaching Shakespeare (because the Bard was deemed too sexist) drew several scathing letters from readers who insinuated we were duped by right-wingers.

"Do you honestly believe an accredited state university like ASU would fire a renowned drama instructor because he taught Shakespeare?" asked Christopher Wilhelm of UCLA, who went on to declare that reporters are "a bunch of breathtakingly gullible schnooks who will publish as gospel truth any press release that finds its way into the newsroom."

Gee, Chris, do you feel strongly about it? We admit that Off-Kilter is always ready to believe the worst about ASU, mainly because our dad was a captain of arch-nemesis Arizona's football team. But that doesn't mean we ignore the rules of journalism. We try to double-check everything. In this case, the Arizona Republic and U.S. News & World Report wrote that professor Jared Sakren, who previously taught at Yale and Juilliard, was sacked after receiving a memo from his department chairwoman complaining he taught from a "sexist . . . totally Euro-American male canon of plays." He was also accused of discrimination toward a disabled student and a female student, although both said in writing the allegations were false.

When Sakren appealed his termination, a university panel agreed that the methods used to evaluate him were "faulty." Since then, he has filed a lawsuit. In response, ASU officials point out that Sakren refuses to let them release files related to his case. They also say the school regularly showcases Shakespeare and that the firing had nothing to do with academic freedom or political correctness. Still, when ASU lawyers recently filed a motion to dismiss Sakren's lawsuit, it was on the grounds that only tenured professors have a constitutional right to academic freedom.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Story: It's a good thing Off-Kilter went on vacation last week because the Weekly World News has been unusually bereft of goofy headlines lately. The tabloid did, however, print two stories that buttress our repeated claims that animals are gearing up for a worldwide revolt against humans. According to one article, killer ants recently ate an entire town in Brazil, despite futile attempts to stop them with boiling water, gasoline, fire and pesticides. Another story says "bloodthirsty, meat-eating chickens" are terrorizing the suburbs of Topeka, Kan.

* Roy Rivenburg's e-mail address is roy.rivenburg@latimes.com.

Contributor: Joe Tash

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