Wow! You've picked one hell of a way too learn!
Personally, I like to get my systems up and running as quickly as possible, then start the learning stuff.
Having never done a Stage 1, I couldn't say.
However, it's often better to use portage than mess with manual compilation etc untill you have some knowledge of how things are working.
So, maybe you should just try to emerge python.
Have you actually got the system installed yet? because I'd suggest that you'd get problems if you haven't completed the install.
The error you posted shows nothing. Google didn't like it at all i.e. did you mean "c_lib.c:24 etc etc"? instead of the c_zlib error that you posted? Either way, it didn't throw up any suggestions.
If you're still "in" the live CD then you probably can't emerge python anyway - AFAIK (which could easily be wrong) you need to have installed the base system and whatever portage snapshot you intend too use before emerge will get anything for you.
'Cos once you've got the base system in, one of the first things you'll find, is that the 2.6.11-gentoor3 that you've quoted as your distro, is "out of date" for the main version of the kernel - thats currently at 2.6.13-gentoo-r3
Hence, I'd suggest that you did a Stage 3 + GRP to get "it" up and running graphically. Irrespective, if you did that, you should be able to get it up and running in less than 2 hours. Then make the changes to the USE flags, and then do the updates/upgrades with emerge -upD --newuse world (sorry, can't remember if the abbreviated switch for newuse is N or n). It's still gonna take quite some hours to get the upgrades/updates/rebuilds so that they make use of any changed/modified USE flags.
Oh, and while theres lots of people here who may be able to assist better than I can, I'd suggest that you have a very good look at the gentoo forums