You get used to it. Yes, some of Heisig's keywords and stories are horrible. The worst story in the whole book is the one about 黙. Here's the critique I'd written on Reviewing The Kanji some months ago:Dustin_Calgary wrote:I still dislike coming across English keywords that I have TO LOOK UP.
I still get confused as hell with both of these kanji. Oh well, it'll go away when I start actually using these kanji, I'm sure.Probably one of the worst stories that Heisig wrote is the one for silence: 黙. The story goes like this (paraphrasing, of course):
"Think of that song about silence that begins 'Hello, darkness, my old friend.' Here we have a black 黒 chihuahua 犬 named 'Darkness'. All you have to do now is remember that the oven flames 灬 extend under the chihuahua."
I know that writing good stories for others is difficult, but this one is staggeringly bad. First off, you have to know the song in the first place. I'm 24 years old; although it may have been fitting for readers of the first edition of RTK1, Simon and Garfunkel is not exactly typical music for my generation. Second, I can't imagine any particular reason why Darkness would be a chihuahua, or why a chihuahua would be named Darkness. Finally, the word that comes to mind most readily with this story is "darkness", not "silence". A couple of times I've written this kanji in place of 暗, the actual kanji for the keyword "darkness"... a bit odd considering that I learned 暗 before studying Heisig.
However, the sheer badness of the story had the ironic effect of helping me remember the kanji because it was so bad. In fact, I find that really bad stories can be used to this effect if you use them sparingly. (Use them too much and of course the thing that makes them stand out will no longer stand out, and then all you have is a bunch of really bad stories.) So the only real problem with it is the potential for confusion with 暗. Note that the confusion also works in reverse because the story for 暗 is that in the original times of darkness, there was no sun 日 and no sound 音. "No sound", of course, reminds one of "silence"... argh!
Still, as a whole, though, I think Heisig's method is pretty good for what it is. But then, it's the "what it is" part that causes flame wars.