By Laura Tanin   Published Aug 19, 2003 at 5:45 AM

{image1} So, you're in the mall shopping for the perfect item you probably don't need and all of a sudden some 100 people start chirping like birds, running around in circles and then suddenly disperse. You ask someone next to you what that was all about, and the response is a shrug and "I have no flippin' idea."

Although this rather bizarre behavior hasn't struck our city on a large level yet, sources tell that Milwaukee may soon become victims of flashing. The Flash Mob Movement is a crowd of non-acquainted people who communicate over the Internet and show up at a specific place, at a certain time, perform some brief act and then leave.

It's all rather odd, which is the point. Some participants believe these acts to be performance art, others revel them as a harmless rebellion. No matter how you try to justify its existence, flash mobbing is quirky, intriguing and random -- at least to onlookers.

Not since the Spice Girls has a craze infected the world so rapidly. It's befuddling, considering this new mob scene started only two months ago in Manhattan by a guy named "Bill," who sent an e-mail to a few of his friends, who forwarded it to their friends, who forwarded it (you get the point).

June 17, 2003 will go on record as the day the Flash Mob introduced itself to the world -- and what better place but Macy's Department Store in New York City? The act: dozens of participants crowded into Macy's and surrounded a large Oriental rug, telling salespeople they all lived together and they wanted to purchase a $10,000 "Love Rug."

Since then, five more flashes have been acted out in New York, including a recent mob in front of the giant roaring dinosaur at the Times Square Toys "R" Us. A group of about 300 gazed at the dinosaur as if in a trance, then fell to the floor screaming and waving their hands in the air. Before the store could call security, the mob disappeared as quickly as it had formed. Other organized mob scenes have formed in cities around the world including Boston, Minneapolis, San Francisco, London, Rome, Hong Kong -- and soon Milwaukee.

Each mob squad has its own organizer and usually likes to be kept anonymous. It adds to the whole spy-like atmosphere. The man behind the "Brew City Mob" holds the alias of "JGO." He first read about the craze online and forwarded the article to his friends with the message, "Let's see if we can pull this off in Milwaukee."

But it isn't fair to say this concept is entirely new in Milwaukee. Smaller groups have been pulling off similar antics for a couple of years now, including a group of MIAD students.

Two summers ago, a group of approximately two dozen friends started going to public places wearing the same color from head to toe. One afternoon they wore all orange and went to the sunburst sculpture on the east end of Wisconsin Avenue. Coincidentally, it was around the time of public debate over whether or not the piece obstructed the view of the new Art Museum addition.

Another time the group, dressed in all green, rode around the city on the trolley.

Harvey Opgenorth, local artist and participant in the color-coordinated outings, says their intention was to have fun and "a way to make people more aware of their surroundings."

Although their small group garnered a lot of attention, Opgenorth agrees that the more people involved, the more effective the stunt is.

"The more I thought about flash mobs, the more I started thinking of just physically how 100 or so people would look in a mall, museum or park doing the exact same thing at the exact same time," says JGO.

JGO started the Brew City Mob at Yahoo! Groups on Aug. 8 as a way of reaching out beyond his circle of friends. The groups area has turned out to be an international hot zone for mob communications. Like its worldly siblings, Brew City Mob is an open group and anyone can join.

The first Flash Mob event in Milwaukee will take place within the next month. The group is still gathering actors for the first performance and the script, as the act is called, is in the process of being written. Cast calls are ongoing and you can sign up any time at the Brew City Mob's Web site. This is the vehicle for finding out the where and when according to the Milwaukee mobster.

"Only members of the group and people I wish to tell will know the specifics," says JGO. "Flash mobs are fun activities that harm no one, promote jovial behavior and make people laugh. They bring people together as opposed to creating tension."

Although some may say the flash mob concept is already dead due to overexposure in the media, it's still a good excuse to do something completely absurd, just for the fun of it.

Stay tuned, Milwaukee. The Mob is coming to town.