Lots of good starting points. I'd suggest digital photography school (http://www.digital-photography-school.com/)
There's a good overview of buying your first DLSR here at Discerning Photographer: http://thediscerningphotographer.com/2009/11/26/buying-your-first-digital-slr-camera/
I'd strongly suggest starting out with a good point and shoot. You can but a Canon G11 for $450, or a Canon S95 for about $400. Those are the cameras professional photographers (and their partners) tend to have to carry in their pocket, and you can do a lot with them without having to invest as much money as going right back into the DLSR market. That'll let you get started again without spending a lot, and decide if you want ot get serious, and learn a bit about what kind of photography you really want to do -- and then you can consider upgrading the gear.
To get started, you're going to need:
A camera; You can get some really good ones in the $400 range, like the two above, or the Panasonic Lumix DMC series, which my wife uses for the superzoom.
Memory cards that work with the camera, and enough that you can shoot as much as you want during the day and not run short. (I typically carry about 2,000 images worth of memory at any time these days, but that's just me)
consider a spare battery.
If you're a mac user, iLife is inexpensive and iPhoto is a great way to get started. At some point you'll likely outgrow it, and then you can evaluate Aperture (from Apple) and Lightroom (from Adobe) and decide what you like. I used Aperture, then switched to Lightroom. Either way you'll have a good powerful system for managing your photos.
Scott Kelby is a good place to start for your "how the heck do I do all this post processing stuff?" questions: http://www.scottkelby.com/
You'll hear people telling you you need photoshop. 2-3 years ago, you did. Today, it's realyl expensive, and other things will do the job for you in almost all cases, and Photoshop ELEMENTS is a lot cheaper, and it'll be a long time before you say to yourself "damn. if only I had the full photoshop program, because I can't do .... in this one". Until you hit that point, DO NOT BUY PHOTOSHOP. Buy elements for about 1/6th the price.
A good starter kit for software is iPhoto/Elements (if you're on a PC, I don't have a clue. hopefully someone will chime in on the iPhoto replacement on windows). The next step would be Lightroom/Elements (or Aperture/elements). Before you buy photoshop, see if there's a third party plug-in for lightroom (or aperture) that does what you need instead of shelling out for photoshop.
Don't forget you need to backup your images, because if you have a hard disk crash, they're gone. Budget for a disk to do backups on. Even better, budget for TWO, so there are always multiple copies of your data. Your disk WILL crash some day.
On composition and technique, lots of resources. I wrote about my inspirations and mentors a while back here (http://www.chuqui.com/2010/08/my-photographic-mentors-and-inspirations/) and that will give you a few places to start and ponder, and they all have many links to many other places to explore and ponder. You'll find the voices that speak to you, and that's what matters...
Start cheap, invest as your interest grows, don't buy stuff until you need it, and don't pressure yourself to be better faster than the fun it creates in your life. And see where it takes you.