I was like you a few months ago: no knowledge of 3D modeling, not even CAD. But I found blender to be quite simple to use, despite it's interface, or the fame it has.
I started learning how to use blender by following tutorials from http://gryllus.net/Blender/3D.html
and from http://blenderunderground.com/
. Blender Underground has some very old tutorials (2.4) but it was useful to see how the software evolved, but a lot of options and panels have changed, the tutorial in gryllus.net is for blender 2.5 but most of the interface is the same now in 2.6.
I also started looking at http://blenderart.org
, the magazine is nice and there are several interesting models to learn from.
I never tried anything else for 3D modeling so I may be biased, and I don't yet know anything about animation beyond what you do with the camera (small videos created by moving the camera position), but I'm finding it's easy to work with blender and most of the things I need to do are accessible by keyboard shortcuts that are easy to remember so most of the time I have no other panel aside from the 3D View panel shown.
If you want to start using Blender I would suggest that you pick some video tutorial that will walk you through the interface options, trying to make sense of it all by yourself may be hard to do.
Rejoice! For very bad things are about to happen.