It's Hammer time in Oakland. MC Hammer has been named Oakland's official tourism spokesman. I can hear it now ... a rhythmic introduction to the museum, zoo and art scene -- along with the words "Can't touch this."

The rapper-turned reality star's endorsement is part of Visit Oakland's new marketing campaign: "Oakland. To know it is to love it." In other words, if you look beyond the headlines, you'll see what we see -- an Oakland brimming with cultural and culinary delights. And why Hammer? He's spent 50 years in Oakland and has seen its transitions as a community. "For everything that you could ever say negatively about Oakland, I can give 10 positives," he says. You can check out Visit Oakland's new campaign at oaklandloveit.org/mc-hammer.

Around town: Congratulations to East Bay Aikido, celebrating 24 years of teaching martial arts in Oakland. Reader Kurt Lavenson says the dojo's owner, Tom Gambell, has been a positive influence in the community, training kids and adults in nonviolent self-defense. "It is a peaceful and thoughtful place. No trophies. No fighting. It is all about the graceful use of strength and power," he writes, adding Tom also works with veterans to help them process loss.

Meanwhile, reader Kathleen Hirooka says it's the 20th anniversary of Bookmark Bookstore in Old Oakland. The business was established in 1992 to help support the Oakland Public Library. Mostly volunteer-run, the gently-used bookstore, along with Friends of the Library, has raised over $1.5 million. Check out the anniversary discounts and events at www.thebookmarkbookstore.org.

On stage: War. What is it good for? This age-old question comes to life, Veterans Day weekend, with an extension of the brilliant one-man play "An Iliad" at the Berkeley Rep. The battle for Troy is recounted by a weathered old man who is tormented by the "clash of swords and shields, the broken hearts and broken oaths," as the playbill puts it. Actor Henry Woronicz's storytelling is punctuated by a lone musician on a cello, who makes the instrument scream with terror and cry with a thousand tears. Discount tickets are going for as little as $14.50 for this must-see play.

Animal Tale: It takes a village to find a lost dog. Stella is back home after spending 72 harrowing hours in Redwood Regional Park recently. She broke away from her owner at dusk, after being chased by a German shepherd on the Ridge Trail. "Stella and I had nearly finished our daily jog," says Jon Gottschalk, when the big dog came bounding around the corner. Gottschalk and his wife looked for two days for Stella before hiring a dog tracker. In the end, it was the post on a free lost dog website that reunited the couple with their furry friend. A family near the park found a white and tan terrier "hunkered down" in their back yard and called the number on the ad. Stella is recuperating now, nursing four sore paws and perhaps a bruised ego.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-723-2525, by email at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or on the web at www.ginnyprior.com.