October arrived in a blaze of hot summer weather, before being tempered by cooler temperatures and a low pressure system that was forecast to bring the first real chance of autumn rain as the Topanga New Times went to press. 

Fall fire risk in the Santa Monica Mountains remains high, but not as high as it was last week. COVID-19 rates continue to drop in Los Angeles County and across California. Pfizer booster shots are now available for many of the most vulnerable. An antiviral medication may be on the horizon that could help reduce the fatality rate for the virus that has claimed an unimaginable 4.55 million lives worldwide so far. We’ve been living in “interesting times” for so long that it feels like tempting fate to even think, “hey, maybe things aren’t so bad,” but just maybe, for a rare moment of time, it would be safe to take a deep breath and count our blessings, instead of tallying our calamities. 

The Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded this week to a pair of California researchers who have helped discover how humans sense touch, heat, cold and movement. Doctors David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian’s remarkable research has “unlocked one of the secrets of nature by explaining the molecular basis for sensing heat, cold and mechanical force, which is fundamental for our ability to feel, interpret and interact with our internal and external environment,” the official announcement states.  

Universal voting by mail is now a permanent part of California election law. Every registered voter will automatically receive a mail-in ballot, thanks to AB 37, which makes California the eighth state in the nation with a vote by mail law.

It may soon be easier for pedestrians to cross the road in California. Governor Gavin Newsom is considering a bill that would legalize jaywalking. Currently, it’s illegal to cross a street mid-block or to cross against a traffic signal. Proponents of the change argue that the current law punishes pedestrians and is often unfairly enforced. If the bill is signed into law, it’s unlikely to change pedestrian activity on the always-hazardous-to-cross roads in the Santa Monica Mountains, but it will impact more urban areas like Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica.

The Liberty Canyon wildlife crossing has an official name: The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, honoring philanthropist Wallis Annenberg. The Annenberg Foundation contributed a $25 million grant in May to help fund the ambitious project to build a landscaped wildlife bridge over the 101 freeway at Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills. The project is expected to break ground later this year and take three years to complete—not a moment too soon for the increasingly endangered and isolated mountain lion population of the Santa Monica Mountains, and other wildlife.

Here at TNT we are welcoming longer, cooler nights with a celebration of film. The Topanga Film Festival is back, better than ever. The six-day festival is a hybrid that combines virtual and in person events, including outdoor screenings under the stars at the Topanga Community Center on October 15 and 16—a welcome return to community participation that addresses COVID safety concerns. The festival is a testament to the creativity, adaptability and determination of its organizers, and the Topanga arts community.

In this issue of TNT, we’ll meet two of the filmmakers whose films are screening in this year’s festival and chat with festival co-founder Urs Baur. We also take a look at the 2016 indie film The Love Witch, visit an urban Eden at California State University, Northridge, and reflect on the pomegranates ripening in gardens all over Topanga—an ancient symbol of autumn that remains a vibrant part of history, mythology, and art—including film. 

Pop some popcorn, turn down the lights, turn off the phone, and join us!

Be well, stay safe.